Marissa Stryker, Canadian Blood Services territory manager, chats with Red Deer Rebels fan Kelly Larsen at Friday night’s Western Hockey League game at the Westerner Park Centrium. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Red Deer Rebels take on Lethbridge Hurricanes in Hockey Gives Blood challenge

The Red Deer Rebels are hoping to help save lives and defeat the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the same time.

The two Western Hockey League teams kicked off the 2020 Hockey Gives Blood challenge at the Westerner Park Centrium Friday.

The challenge pits the two against each other to see which team can bring in the most blood donations throughout January.

“This has been something we’ve been doing with the Lethbridge Hurricanes for quite a while,” said Dean Williams, Rebels vice president of marketing and sales.

“Even though this is an off-ice thing, we’re still kind of competitive, so we like to win. But anything helps. Not a lot of people realize how much blood is needed.”

The goal of the campaign in Red Deer is to book 150 appointments and bring in 50 new donors to help ensure Canadian patients have the blood products they need.

During Friday’s game against Saskatoon at the Centrium, Canadian Blood Services hosted an information table, where Rebels fans could book appointments to donate blood.

Marissa Stryker, Canadian Blood Services territory manager, said Red Deer lost by just 30 donations in last year’s challenge.

“I’m pretty hyped up to get us to win (this year),” said Stryker, who is also in her seventh season as part of the Rebels promotions crew.

“It’s been pretty neck-and-neck over the years. Our cities are similar in size and both have such amazing fans who are very supportive of patients. I think last year we got almost 200 donations, so it creates a huge impact.”

Stryker said the Hockey Gives Blood Challenge, which has been running for nine or 10 years, is how she first got involved with Canadian Blood Services.

“I was 17 when I first heard about this competition. I was working with the Red Deer Rebels, got hooked and I started volunteering with Canadian Blood Services. That began my passion for the cause,” she said.

Bringing in new donors is important, Stryker added.

“Lots of people will become ineligible for various things, like medications, travelling, tattoos and piercings, and they’ll be deferred for a short amount of time or sometimes forever.

“We are really encouraging brand new people to come to the donor centre and they can call it a New Year’s resolution too. It’s a chance to do something beautiful and very rewarding for your community,” she said.

Canadian Blood Services also sponsored a game of musical chairs on the ice during the second intermission of Friday’s game.

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