MINNEAPOLIS — When the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State women’s hockey teams play in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame game on Saturday, Nov. 20, it’ll be more than just another hockey game.
That’s because the game will be raising awareness, not only for women’s hockey and the Hall of Fame, but also for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS.
Three former athletes, Senator David Tomassoni, Chris Engler and Mike Bruss will be singled out because they’re all living with ALS.
“We want to expose people to women’s college hockey at the highest level, but we also want to raise awareness for ALS,” said Doug Johnson, who is a board member for the Hall of Fame. “We want to show how skilled these players are and bring in some type of charity to bring in some funds.
“When I spoke to David, he said he would accept the award.”
Pat Micheletti will be presenting Tomassoni with the Spirit of Life award between the first and second periods.
“I’m honored, humbled and proud to call him a friend and to present this award to him,” Micheletti said. “I’ve known him for a long time. There’s a bond between our families, and I look at this as presenting it to him from the Micheletti family.
“He’s been a mentor to me on the ice and off the ice. He was instrumental in me playing in Italy. For two years he hounded me about coming over there. I finally did and it was one of the smartest things I did in my career. I’m grateful to him for that. It’s well deserved.”
Micheletti remembers playing against Tomassoni in Italy.
“He was at the end of his career, and I was in the prime of mine,” Micheletti said. “In one game, I was going down one-on-one, and when I looked up, it was him. He put a smile on his face and right then and there I said, ‘I can’t try to beat him.’
“I got to the blueline, shot it in and went after it instead of trying to beat him. As soon as he smiled, I laughed a little bit. This was in a game. No matter what, he always puts a smile on your face. We shared laughs both on and off the ice. We remained good friends forever.”
Tomassoni is appreciative of the work Johnson has done to raise awareness, not only for ALS, but women’s hockey as well.
“He’s been a tireless advocate for women’s hockey and the Hall of Fame game,” Tomassoni said. “This is a neat situation to get two Division I teams playing for the prize, and I know they’re doing something for ALS awareness.
“Being a part of that is something I’d rather not be a part of, but I have no choice. Every day is a new adventure for me. My mobility and dexterity keep getting a little worse, so I take it one-day-at-a-time.”
Former University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach Jim Dutcher will present a gift to Engler, and Gopher baseball manager John Anderson will do the same for Bruss, who played baseball for Minnesota.
Also slated to be there will be Doug Palazzari and Cal Cossalter along with Bob Pazzelli, who played with Tomassoni at Denver.
Dropping the first pucks at the game will be Kent Hrbek, who’s father passed away from ALS, and Krissy Wendall-Pohl.
Present Hall of Famers who will be in attendance will be Gary Gambucci, Murray Williamson, who coached the 1972 Olympic hockey team, Buzzy Schneider and Bill Baker who played on the gold-medal winning 1980 hockey team, Palazzari and Natalie Darwitz.
“It’s important for the Hall of Fame to give back and help causes, whether it’s ALS or growing the game of hockey,” Johnson said. “We want to get more girls to play hockey and expose college players to the fans who have never seen a game.
“We’re hoping to get as many people down here from all over the state and support a cause like ALS.”
The Gophers and Huskies will begin play at 3 p.m. in Ridder Arena. Tickets prices range from $8 and $10, and are available at www.gophersports.com, or by calling 1-800-U-GOPHER or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s important to promote awareness of this disease,” Tomassoni said. “It doesn’t affect that many people, but the people it does affect, it changes their life completely. Trying to find a cure is what this awareness is all about.
“It’s affecting us in different ways, and there’s nothing anybody can do to fix us. The whole idea is to try and slow the progression, so we can maintain some quality of life. I hope that with every-single time this is put out front and center, we get a little closer to some kind of cure.”