Saturday, March 27, 2010

Johnstown Jets' Dave Birch in Charity Sled Hockey Game Today

The Johnstown Sitting Bulls sled hockey team will seek to raise funds with the help of some familiar faces March 27.

The team for players with disabilities will take on a squad of local educators , celebrities and media members in the Sitting Bulls' second annual fundraiser.

"We're just hoping for a fun day on the ice," said team business manager Jennifer Buchkovich. "We want to introduce sled hockey to as many people as we can."

The Sitting Bulls will be assisted by 2003 United High School graduate Josh Wirt, a member of the 2002 gold medal-winning Paralympic sled hockey team.

Other participants in the game will include educators Nathan Bevard and Randy Rearick, of United High School; Michelle Varner, of Forest Hills Elementary; Brandon Bailey, of Richland High School; Eric Adams and Bob Rhine, of Saint Andrews Elementary; and Max Shoemaker, of Chestnut Ridge Middle School. The game will also feature Johnstown Chiefs general manager Bill Bredin and assistant coach Jason Spence, former Johnstown Jets player Dave Birch, Jack Michaels and Mike Stevens of radio station 96 Key, "Totally Bubba" of Froggy 95, Dr. Kim Marley of Alleghenies Surgical and WJAC-TV meteorologist Jim Burton, who emceed last year's charity game between the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins and the Bishop McCort varsity hockey team.

Buchkovich said last year's event was a success on and off the ice, raising "a couple thousand" dollars and spreading awareness of the sport.

The Sitting Bulls have drawn considerable attention to the sport since forming the team two years ago. The team has received grants for equipment and promotion from the Lee Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, and was also the subject of a segment shown on Fox Sports Pittsburgh during intermission of a Pittsburgh Penguins game this season.

"We got a lot of positive feedback from that," Buchkovich said. "We even received a couple of donations from some viewers who wanted to help our kids."

On the ice, the Sitting Bulls are making strides as well. The 13-member team, which has players ranging from a first-grader to a high school senior, claimed its first victory in competitive play in January at a tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Next month, the team will head to the National Disabled Hockey Festival in Laurel, Md., to be held April 8-11.

But first, the team is focused on the March 27 exhibition game.

"We want our spectators and the opposing team to gain an appreciation of the athletic talent it takes to play sled hockey," Buchkovich said.

The game begins at the Cambria County War Memorial at noon. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children under 5 will be admitted free.

Various raffles and silent auctions will be held during the game, with available items including a replica Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins jersey signed by the 2009-10 Penguins team.

For additional information, contact Buchkovich at (814) 487-4506.

Photo courtesy Tim Barndt.

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