For the last several years, the Anchorage Igloos have been active supporters of the fight against lupus. Igloos LW Les Collins’ sister was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease in 2015. Collins caused a brief uproar by wearing purple armbands during games that season. When he explained they were meant to honor his sister, both the league and coach Sam Castor made donations to the Lupus Foundation of America in her name. Last season, when Collins’ sister took a turn for the worse, Anchorage C Jake Frost announced that he would donate $100 to the Lupus Foundation for every goal he scored.
Fortunately, Collins’ sister has seen her health improve this year. But the Igloos remain committed to the battle against the disease. On Sunday, Anchorage held a unique “White Out/Purple Out” night that doubled as a fundraiser for the cause.
“Obviously, this is personal for those of us in the Igloos family because of Les,” said Igloos GM Will Thorndike. “But it’s also a worthwhile cause in its own right, and we’re glad to do our part.”
The idea for the unusual night came about as the Igloos marketing department was planning its promotions for the season. The team wanted to do a “White Out” night in which the team gave away white T-shirts for the fans to wear. The idea of fans all wearing the same color has a long history in hockey, dating back to the Calgary Flames’ “C of Red” and the Jets’ “Winnipeg White Out” in the 1980s.
“People are always complaining that they come to Anchorage and get snow blindness,” quipped Thorndike. “So we thought, why not try to re-create that effect indoors?”
In addition, the team also planned to have a fundraising night for lupus. Since the color purple is associated with lupus awareness, the team wanted to work in the color in some way. Thorndike isn’t sure who came up with the idea of combining the two promotions, but the team quickly embraced the idea.
The question then became: how do you feature white and purple on the same night? The Igloos experimented with several concepts. They considered white T-shirts with a purple wolf head (the wolf is another symbol of lupus awareness); the team decided that might be viewed as inadvertent support for the rival Michigan Gray Wolves. They looked into reversible T-shirts that was white on one side and purple on the other, but the shirts were too expensive to produce. They considered white shirts with purple sleeves, but worried they would ruin the “white out” effect.
Finally, the team settled on giving away white T-shirts and light-up purple wrist bands. During most of the game, the arena was bathed in white as the fans wore their T-shirts with pride. Then between the second and third periods, the arena lights went out and the fans were instructed to hold their wrist bands high, bathing the crowd in a purple glow.
Collins recorded the purple-light tribute on his phone and sent it to his sister, who was moved to tears. “She’s known that everyone on the team is behind her,” said Collins after the game. “But to see the whole stadium lit up purple, and knowing the fans are behind her too… I got chills.”
The night wasn’t just a symbolic tribute; the Igloos also raised money for the cause. The team donated $1 of the cost of each ticket to the Lupus Foundation, along with the proceeds from that night’s 50/50 raffle. They also raffled off Collins’ game-worn jersey. In total, the Igloos wound up giving over $30,000 to the foundation.
“I think it’s great that the team did this,” said Igloos C Jake Frost. “Les is family to us, and so is his sister. We’re glad to show the world that we have her back.