Tonight’s game marks the debut of the Chicago Wolves Police and Fire jerseys, but the tradition of donning commemorative jerseys for a set of games in January is hardly a new one for the franchise.
Beginning in the 1997-98 season, the club has designed a special jersey to be auction and raffled, with proceeds benefiting Chicago Wolves charities. Each season, the team selects a unique theme for the sweaters, which are one-of-a-kind and available only at the games.
The Wolves have raised more than $300,000 for charity through this fundraising endeavor over the years, thanks to the big hearts of fans with a soft spot for charitable causes and a predilection for stylish hockey sweaters. Below is a retrospective of the commemorative Wolves jerseys throughout the years, and some memories from the lucky fans that won them in the auctions or raffles.
The one with the story is probably the black alternate Guy Larose jersey. We got into a heated bidding battle for that one. It was the only one I wanted and I would have stopped at nothing to get it. We ended up with two that year, because I got one and my husband Rob wanted one, too.
My favorite jersey is actually a regular white, game-worn jersey of Guy Larose’s that I won in a raffle. I think probably the most underrated is the Armed Forces jersey – nobody knows those are all little wolf heads!
The auctions are always hectic. When Larose was on the team we always went for his, but now we just see how the bidding goes. We got a Jeff Dessner jersey one year because he was a Badger and I went to Wisconsin, and we got a Brian Sipotz jersey after we sat with him at a banquet. Our Niko Dimitrakos jersey was also won in a raffle, when someone donated a ticket from “Shirts Off Their Backs.”
I always use a purple pen. Being a shorter person, it’s a little difficult to see, so when I have a different color, I can see my bid.
I can’t say that I have a favorite, I like them all. The Dallas Eakins college jersey was probably my most expensive. For the Phil Bourque, I was bidding against a guy in New York, who was on the phone having someone make bids for him.
The first year they had the auction around the table and actually had a live auction taking place for three or four of them inside the rink. Wayne was down on the ice being the auctioneer and that’s when I got the Troy Murray green one, along with the other two I ended up winning in the silent auction, but the actual bidding going back and forth was kind of neat. I got to meet Troy later in the year and he was talking about being down in the tunnel during the action and was kind of surprised how much it was going for.
Most of the ones I’ve purchased have been some of the guys we’ve gotten to know pretty well over the years like Troy Murray, Scotty Pearson, Garnet Exelby and Greg Hawgood.
I don’t think we go in with a specific player in mind, but we have gotten smarter in how we bid. Then the last day you kind of get wrapped up in everything that’s going on and the fever pitch of the bidding and say that’s the one I’m going for.
I think it’s been a successful program for the Wolves. Obviously the funds that are raised through the auctions go to good charities and good causes – that’s what I keep telling my wife anyway! It’s a good opportunity for the fans to get a little bit of history from each season, something that the players actually wore, while helping out the charitable organizations
A special thank you to Alice, Ken and Kent Biene; Grace and Rob Garritano; Jim and Lorraine Smalley; Patricia and John O'Dishoo; and Naomi and Joe Viso for their help with this piece, and to all of our fans who have purchased a commemorative jersey over the years.