NEWARK, NJ — It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about keeping the fight alive, never giving up — MikeyStrong.
In what was the biggest and best turnout yet, nearly 4,000 fans were in attendance at the 5th annual #MikeyStrong/Reeve Foundation Charity Hockey Game at Prudential Center in Newark Friday night.
In January of 2014, Mike Nichols, a senior forward on the Monroe Township ice hockey team, suffered a debilitating neck injury when he fractured his C-5 vertebrae in a high school ice hockey game in New Jersey.
Since then, however, Nichols has become a beacon of hope, a voice and a symbol for hundreds afflicted with spinal cord injuries, in the drive toward improving the lives of — and ultimately curing — individuals living with paralysis.
Last night, in association with WFAN Sports Radio, “The Boomer and Gio Morning Show” and The Reeve Foundation, a host of former New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders joined NHL alumni from several other clubs and celebrities at the 5th annual event which has become a benchmark event in the Metropolitan ice hockey community.
Kevin Westgarth opened the scoring for “Team Boomer” just a minute into the game before Robert Capone doubled it moments later, but “Team Reeve” battled back to tie the game at 2-2. Ken Daneyko gave Team Reeve a 3-2 lead, however, Team Boomer rallied for a second-half comeback on goals from Nikita Kovalev, Aaron Asham and Marty Reasoner en route to a 7-5 victory. Grant Marshall and Bryce Salvador also scored for Team Reeve.
“It was just a great night,” Boomer Esiason said. “Whether you win or lose doesn’t really matter, at the end of the day to have the hockey players we had and the people that showed up in support, the Devils, M&M’s — there’s nothing like this anywhere.
“Just amazing cooperation over the last five years. Everyone’s behind Mikey. He’s so inspiring. He came in here and spoke to NHL players and they all sat in amazement listening to his story, what he’s all about,” Esiason, a 14-year NFL veteran, said. “I think that’s why we’re all here and why this is such a success. At the end of the day, you play hockey, raise some money and put a spotlight on a young man who deserves it. He inspires a lot of people.”
Text “Reeve” to 20222 to donate $10 to Mike Nichols Trust or visit The Reeve Foundation
“The continued success of the MikeyStrong game is a testament, not only to Boomer and Gio and everyone at WFAN and the Reeve Foundation, but it’s a testament to the hockey community,” Will Reeve said. “Support for Denna Laing, the spinal cord injury community, the way they pick people up when they need help forms a very close bond. So many people here in the fifth year and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s really special.”
Over the history of the event, the annual charity game has raised over $300,000. This year, the New Jersey Devils, in conjunction with The Reeve Foundation, WFAN and M&M’s were seeking to raise an additional $100,000.
With over 3,000 tickets sold prior to the event, not including several hundred walk-ups at the door, the 2019 MikeyStrong installment was the most successful event yet.
“Our biggest year ever,” Jim Leonard, Senior Vice President of Gov’t Relations and Foundations for HB Sports & Entertainment, said. “We sold over 3,000 tickets which puts us over $100,000.
“What’s beautiful about this is we get businesses that come to us and say, ‘How can we help?‘” Leonard said. “Usually you have to twist arms, but in this case people recognize how important it is, recognize the cause and want to be a part of it so every year it gets bigger. This year we had sponsorship from M&M’s, FanDuel, and it just grows.
“Like Mike said, he wants to be the last one in a wheelchair,” Leonard said. “Hopefully, we can help that.”
“I was at this event two years ago, but this year, to see the stands, the support, the way it has grown in two years is remarkable,” former Devils’ captain and current MSG analyst Bryce Salvador said.
“The amount of former NHL players that come to this event, the support from the community, the support for Mikey, what the Devils are doing is just really nice to see,” Salvador said. “Overall, it’s just a really great cause.”
Thank you so much to everyone who came out to the fifth annual Mikeystrong charity hockey game! Huge thanks to the @njdevils , @7BOOMERESIASON , @giowfan , @mmschocolate , and everyone @wfansportsradio . It gets better every year, I can’t wait for next year!! pic.twitter.com/dcAShDN5pK
— Mike Nichols (@M_Nichs) March 23, 2019
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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