Hockey Greats Shine Spotlight on Disabled Counterparts: A True “Love of the Game” Display

The Rochester Citizen – Posting Date 090710

Written by Jill Fraeyman

The Red Wings Alumni Association hit the ice at the Onyx Rochester Ice Arena on August 21 to raise awareness and funding for their fellow hockey players with special needs. As a pre-race fundraiser for the new Great Michigan Race that benefits Michigan's special athletes, the star-studded event radiated the lime light on the physically and intellectually disabled players, who beat all odds to lace up their skates and take to the ice.

Detroit's own Karen Newman sang the National anthem, and famed Production Line great Ted Lindsay took center ice for the ceremonial puck drop. Players for the "Friends of Special Olympics" team battled the Red Wings Alumni in two 25-minute periods of action. Hockey legend Mickey Redmond was in good company as Joe Kocur, Shawn Burr and John Ogrodnick joined him on the ice to lead the Wings to victory.

However, the program really kicked off during the game's 20-minute intermission, when the Michigan FAR Flyers and Michigan Sled Dogs showed the Alumni and the fans what they can do on blades. Former NHLers Shawn Burr, Jon Finstrom, Mike Krushelnyski and Craig Wolanin took on both teams in separate 5-minute games, getting a firsthand experience of the will, ability and adoration for the game of hockey that these players exude.

Red Wings Almuni Association, Michigan FAR Flyers and Michigan Sled Dogs players on the ice at the Great Michigan Race.

The Michigan FAR Flyers are part of USA Hockey's American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) program and skate at the Viking Arena in Hazel Park. "We are proud to be a part of events that highlight our team's abilities, and the opportunity to play with the Red Wings Alumni makes it really special for our athletes," expressed Head Coach, Ben Niemiec. Visit

The Michigan Sled Dogs are a competitive traveling sled hockey team based at Fraser's Great Lakes Sports City Ice Arena that supports players with disabilities including Spina Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy and spinal cord injuries that prohibit them from playing stand up hockey. Visit

"There are such wonderful programs for athletes with disabilities, and I encourage people to get involved by participating as well as supporting the organizations that make it all happen" exclaims Carol Schwanger, Director Disabled Sports for Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA).

The Great Michigan Race organizers were responsible for hosting the event and showcasing these amazing players. The Great Michigan Race will be held Sunday, October 17 in Rochester with Mickey Redmond as the race Emcee.

All race proceeds benefit Special Olympics Michigan, so support our special needs athletes by forming a team of four in the race, volunteering your time and talents, or donating to a great cause! For more information, visit!

The Great Michigan Race is being organized by In2itive Marketing & Events, a Michigan-based firm. "This event offers an exciting alternative to traditional fundraising efforts, and we hope to garner as much participation as possible to maximize the proceeds for SOMI," offered Jill Fraeyman, co-founder.