Outdoor game aids hypertension

University alumni raised funds for the condition with a hockey game at TCF Bank Stadium.

One day after the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks faced off at TCF Bank Stadium, University of Minnesota hockey alumni, alongside other former collegiate hockey players took to the outdoor rink at the Hockey4Hypertension event.

Niti Gupta

One day after the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks faced off at TCF Bank Stadium, University of Minnesota hockey alumni, alongside other former collegiate hockey players took to the outdoor rink at the Hockey4Hypertension event.

Emily Polglaze

One day after TCF Bank Stadium hosted the first professional outdoor game in Minnesota, former University of Minnesota players returned to the ice to fundraise for hypertension research.
 
 
Twelve former Gophers skaters from both the men and women’s programs participated in Monday’s Hockey4Hypertension event. The players scrimmaged with former skaters from Minnesota’s law school club team and other former collegiate players with University ties.
 
 
“If you can skate, you can have a good time at something like this,” former Minnesota forward Pat O’Leary said. “Doesn’t matter what kind of skill level you have. It was fun, a wide variety of skill, and everybody was just in it to have a fun time.”
 
 
Hypertension, better known as high blood pressure, raises the risk factor for ailments such as heart attacks, kidney disease and stroke. 
 
 
Paul Drawz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University, first had the idea for the event when the Gophers men’s team played Ohio State outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014.
 
 
He reached out to the Minnesota Wild in August to schedule the event as part of the team’s Stadium Series game with the Chicago Blackhawks but only received permission two weeks ago.
 
 
“I knew they wouldn’t give me the ice if I just said I wanted to play hockey,” Drawz said. “The whole time, I had in mind it would be a charity event. I just didn’t know how I would do it.”
 
 
Drawz announced on Monday night that the event raised nearly $15,000. After the game, he said he hoped to reach $20,000.
 
 
Donations from the event went on to support research efforts of the University of Minnesota Chronic Kidney Disease Research Fund.
 
 
“We take care of the people at Minnesota,” Drawz said. “A lot of them are affected by high blood pressure, and it’s one of the things I think we should be doing.”
 
 
The players in the event were divided into two teams. One represented the Fighting Mondales club hockey team from the University’s law school and had several Gophers alumni. The other team represented the Academic Health Center.
 
 
Some of the alumni at the event included Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell-Pohl from the Gophers women’s team, and Jordan Leopold and Grant Potulny from the men’s team.
 
 
Darwtiz and Wendell-Pohl are two of the program’s top-five all-time leading scorers, and led the team to national titles in 2004 and 2005.
 
 
Wendell-Pohl is one of just two Minnesota players to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, the top individual honor in college women’s hockey. 
 
 
Leopold won the Hobey Baker Award at Minnesota, the top individual men’s award and went on to have a long career in the NHL. He played for the Minnesota Wild last season.
 
 
Potulny is still with the Gophers as an assistant coach for the men’s team.
 
 
“It was fun,” Potulny said. “The first shift was pretty quick, and I think we all thought it was going to slow down.”
 
 
Family and fans surrounded the boards during the hourlong game, which the Academic Health Center team won 9-7.
 
 
It was the first time many alumni played at the University of Minnesota since their college days, and it was also many players’ first outdoor game. 
 
 
“It was pretty special that we got to go out and skate together,” former Gophers forward Erik Wendell said. “It’s been a long time since most of us have done anything fun like this together.”