There are some NHL cities where the club’s annual charity event is staged within a community and the meeting of expectations is hit or miss.
That’s never been the case with the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival, which has exceeded expectations every year of its existence, dating back to 1977.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that throughout the long, bleak days of fall and early winter as the NHL lockout dragged on, fans continually asked whether there would be a Carnival.
“We were hoping all through the lockout we’d have a Carnival and we never lost hope,” said Kristen Laviolette, this year’s chairperson.
“I got asked that question 100 times during the lockout. I always said our hope was that 'Yes, there would be one.' This has been going on 36 seasons now, and we wanted it to happen.”
Kristen is the wife of Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.
Mark it down: Sunday, March 3 is this year’s Carnival.
“We had some great new ideas we were working on, but because of the short time frame, some of them won’t materialize this year,” said Mary Ann Saleski, the senior vice-president of Comcast-Spectacor Charities.
“We only had six weeks when we got the date to pull the Carnival together. So this one will be the same [as last year].”
Except that wives are asking two-time Stanley Cup champ Bernie Parent, who’s become a media celeb online, if he’ll put down his laptop and go back in net so kids can shoot on him.
“We’re trying to convince him,” Saleski said.
Last year’s Carnival raised approximately $800,000. The wives have donated $25 million, overall, to roughly 150 charities since the Carnival’s inception, making it the largest sports charitable event in Pennsylvania, as well as the largest in the NHL.
That’s another reason why Saleski worried about the lockout. You can’t hold a Carnival without players and so many charities depend on this event for financial support.
“All these causes are depending upon us,” she said. “We made friends with a lot of charities that wives and players are close to. They were calling us during the lockout.”
Kristen Laviolette said the wives and girlfriends are especially proud to again be part of the Hope for Kids Project.
“We started it last year,” she said. “We do things like make over a bedroom for a critically-ill child. Something that makes a difference in a child’s life can be so special.
“The [charities] that the wives have a hand in where we can make a real difference, that is really special to us.”
Needless to say, the Carnival is expected to again sell out. Almost 15,000 people showed up for the open practice the Flyers had in January at Wells Fargo Center.
“If they’re coming out in droves for practices, I think they will be gung-ho to come here for the Flyers' charities,” Kristen Laviolette said.
One of the prizes this year is an expanded version of the behind-the-scenes building tour. This one will include the press box and tickets to a Peter Laviolette postgame press conference.