USA Hockey Magazine

February 2019

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8 // FEBRUARY 2019 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM O F F T HE D R AW PHOTOS BY Brian Troester; Matthew Murnaghan; Amy Taylor; Andi Perelman; Crys Baker k IT HAD BEEN MORE THAN FOUR YEARS since Kyler Garsjo's last haircut. And then, on a late December night in Sidney, Mont., with a few snips it was hair today, gone tomorrow. Just like that the teenager surrendered four eight- inch braids of his flowing locks to charity and Richland Youth Hockey Association was $3,100 richer. It took place during Richland Youth Hockey's Winter Showcase where each senior player was bid on by community members in an attempt to raise money. Garsjo, one of the Richland Rangers' bet- ter and most identifiable players with long brown hair escaping from the back of his helmet, offered to lose the hair if the price was right. "I brought it up a little bit, just joking around," the 18-year-old said. "Another one of my team- mates took it to the auctioneer and it took off from there." The bar was set at $3,000, and after a slow start local parents began to pool their money and made it happen. Garsjo had been growing his hair since 8th grade and with the exception of an occasional trim to keep the ends neat it had not been cut in four years. After a local hair stylist braided Garsjo's hair into eight-inch long braids, winning bidder John Seitz made the first cut followed by his team- mates and his girlfriend. "It was kind of cool to see the community come around and raise money for a good cause," Garsjo said. "The club got a lot of money off the fundraiser as a whole. That was a big part of it. It being my senior year, it was a really cool experience." The money was donated to Richland Youth Hockey, a Montana organization that competes in North Dakota due to the town's proximity to its neighboring state. "It's very fulfilling for me and the club to see a young man step up and volunteer like Kyler did," said Jason Schmierer, a vice presi- dent with RYHA. "I think it speaks volumes about his character. I only coached him for his freshman year, but it's been very fun to watch him mature both physically and mentally the last couple of years." Hair-Raising Auction Helps Youth Hockey Program COMMUNITY KRAFT HOCKEYVILLE 3 NHL teams' social media accounts usually featuring pregame photos and scoring updates, but one team's tweet stood out above the rest. Despite the Pittsburgh Penguins netting five goals in a game against the Montreal Candiens, the biggest assist one night happened off the ice. Seven stories above the action, in the press box at PPG Paints Arena, a single tweet of a fan's homemade sign was sent out to the digital masses, and ultimately helped save Kelly Sowatsky's life. "Kelly was so brave to come to the game and share something so personal in such a public way. When I saw that, I knew we needed to post," said Andi Perelman, the Penguins' director of new media. The Penguins' social media team sent out the photo with a simple but symbolic caption. "Penguins fan: Seeking hero." The tweet gained more than 500,000 impressions, thanks to being shared by multiple news outlets. One impression came courtesy of another Penguins fan, Jeff Lynd. More than 300 miles away in Delaware, he pledged to step up to help and was revealed to be a donor match. On Nov. 6, nearly eight months after that tweet hit the airwaves, the kidney transplant surgery was complete. In an instant, the lives of two perfect strangers were forever intertwined, thanks in large part to their devotion to their beloved hockey team. After recovering, both Kelly and Jeff, along with their families, got to watch the Penguins take on the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 27. They also had the chance to watch morning skate and tour the locker room. Sowatsky even wore a Jake Guentzel jersey to the skate and had her favorite player sign her sweater. It left Sowatsky beaming as bright as the brightlyi-colored sign that started the sequence of events. "This has been the best day of my life," she said. PENS' SOCIAL POST HELPS SAVE A LIFE NHL PREDS' PROM PROPOSAL NHL J ackson Taylor knew he wanted to do s o m e t h i n g s p e c i a l f o r h i s g i r l f r i e n d Caitlin ahead of their senior prom. So the La Vergne, Tenn., native called upon members of his favorite hockey team, the Nashville Predators, to help out. Jackson was able to get videos of players ask- ing Caitlin if she would escort him to the prom. Among the Predators featured in the video were P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Pekka Rinne, Caitlin's favorite player Ryan Johansen, a s w e l l a s c o a c h Pet e r L av i o l ett e . Eve n t h e Predators' radio announcers Hal Gill and Pete Weber pitched in. His mom and sister also played a big role. "My family helped me out a bunch throughout the process and I can't thank them enough," Jackson said. And it worked. "She was speechless," Jackson said. Well, aside from saying 'yes' that is. Jackson, 18, plays high school hockey with Blackman/Stewarts Creek and also with the Nashville Flyers 18U AA squad. He is also a USA Hockey referee. He lives and breathes hockey and wanted his prom proposal to be spe- cial and include the sport that Caitlin h a s b e g u n t o e n j oy a l ot m o r e s i n c e they started dating and attending games together at Bridgestone Arena. Picked up by the Predators as well as the NHL on social media, Jackson's prom proposal turned out to be another hit produced in the Music City. Kyler Garsjo raised $3,100 for Richland Youth Hockey. k Watch Jackson's proposal video in the digital edition of USA Hockey Magazine.

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