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January 8, 2005 - Charities also a casualty of NHL lockout

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Charities also a casualty of NHL lockout




Philadelphia Inquirer

The NHL lockout has an array of victims.

Some victims have very direct ties, such as the players.

Others' ties are less direct, such as the vendors, security guards, arena workers and fans.

And then there is that almost forgotten group - charities that rely on hockey players to help them raise money every season.

The 29th annual Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival was to have been held Jan. 30 at the Wachovia Center.

Barring a miracle of Hollywood-like proportions, there will be no carnival this year with the players' and wives' involvement. The club is prohibited from openly sponsoring or assisting in any activity during the lockout.

Quietly, there are discussions within the Flyers organization about asking the AHL's Phantoms and their wives to sponsor a scaled-down carnival later this winter. But that's not guaranteed. For now, the Flyers are not commenting.

It's not an exaggeration to say that the words "carnival'' and "Flyers'' are synonymous in Philly with charity.

Over the last 28 years, Fran Tobin and the wives have raised $18 million, including $1.19 million last winter, in what has become a huge one-day fund-raiser.

Numerous charities and thousands of men, women and especially children are the beneficiaries of this event, which aids the Barry Ashbee Research Laboratories at the Isadore Brodsky Institute for Cancer and Blood Diseases and other medical establishments.

"It's really sad not to be working on this right now," said Lisa Primeau, who chairs the carnival's wives' committee as wife of team captain Keith Primeau.

"There are so many people affected by this lockout who you don't even think about," she said. "A lot of people count on the money we raise - the hospitals and charities. This affects so many people."

Had there been a season, Lisa Primeau would be busy most days at the Wachovia Center doing a variety of chores for Tobin, the carnival's tireless executive director.

Primeau would start her day wrapping a couple of hundred gifts. Then she'd answer the phones for Rita Johansson, Tobin's assistant, and help with ticket sales. After that, she'd be meeting with some of the Flyers' sponsors. It's exhausting work.

"During the month leading up to the carnival, I never see Lisa," Keith Primeau said. "She'd be working all the time on the carnival."

Her favorite part? In December, the wives drop off several shipments of pucks for the players to sign. In January, the wives wrap the pucks and decorate them with Hershey Kisses. Hence the name Pucks & Kisses, always a fan favorite at the carnival.

Even though the carnival appears to be history, the team said it is raising money for its charities through its Web site (philadelphiaflyers.com) by selling bracelets. The team said it had sold 10,000.

Also, the Flyers alumni and their wives are handling the Pucks & Kisses. Those are being sold for $20 at Phantoms games starting tomorrow and on the club's Web site for $25.