Anchorage Igloos LW Les Collins got into a flap with the SHL over an unusual tribute he wore this week. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending.
Collins raised some eyebrows this week when he wore a pair of purple armbands with the outline of a wolf on them. Since the trading deadline was just a couple of days away, those who spotted the armbands wondered if Collins was making a coded demand to be traded to Michigan, or if it was some sort of statement against the team.
Collins initially declined to comment on the meaning of the armbands, saying it was “personal” and “the people who need to already understand it.” But the Igloos winger was forced to break his silence when the league fined him $500 for a uniform violation. Once the fine was announced, Collins explained that the armbands were meant as a gesture of solidarity with his sister, who had recently been diagnosed with lupus, and autoimmune disease that is believed to affect approximately 1.5 million Americans, predominantly women. The color purple is associated with lupus awareness, as is the wolf (“lupus” means “wolf” in Greek).
“It’s not something I like to talk about,” said Collins. “It’s really just between me and my sister. But I do want to take a minute and advocate for more lupus funding. There’s not enough money going to research it. We still don’t entirely understand how it works or how you get it, and we don’t have a cure. I hope this all encourages people to give money to help find a cure.”
In the end, Collins worked out a compromise with the league: he agreed to pay the fine, but in the form of a donation to the Lupus Foundation of America, with the league kicking in a matching amount.
Igloos coach Sam Castor also made a donation on his own behalf. “Les hadn’t told any of this about this before,” said Castor. “He’s such a private guy. When he showed up with the armbands, a couple of us said, ‘Um… what’s up with that?’ He said it was for his sister, but he didn’t tell us that she was sick. Obviously, the whole team is behind her, and we’re rooting for things to work out.”