MOLINE, Ill. – The Quad City Storm have made themselves a fixture in the Quad Cities community in a short amount of time. A little over a year ago, the Quad City Mallards announced that they were ceasing operations at the end of the season. Now, the Storm have established a new hockey culture in the community: one that gives back.

One thing that fans noticed throughout the waning years of the Mallards’ existence was the lack of community engagement. The Booster Club would host events with the team, such as bowling or trivia night, but the team rarely went into the community. Ringing the bells for The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle drive was a thing of the past for the Mallards’ ultimate season. Tip-A-Mallard was no longer in the books, and the post-game parties after Wednesday games ceased.

Before, the Mallards’ had been sponsored by TGI Friday’s, the location of the post-game parties on the weekday. Fans could get autographs, pictures, or just talk with the players. TGI Friday’s was also a location of playoff watch parties in Illinois, while The Lodge was the Iowa location. The Lodge was closed in August 2015 and demolished two years later, removing one of the staples of Mallards meeting places.

The Storm, however, are far different in regards to community appearances. In a press release from March 20 announcing the contribution to the community already made by the Storm, team president Gwen Tombergs said:

“We had to be more than just a hockey team. We needed new fans who would give us a try, and we knew that people support non-profits. By giving back money from their Storm ticket, it’s a win/win for everyone.”

The community-oriented team outlook began before the inaugural puck drop October 20, starting with the roster. At the media day on October 17, coach Dave Pszenyczny said:

“Obviously, these guys are doing what they need to do in the community. I hand-picked them on purpose for that reason, and guys that are 60-point guys in this league. if they’re not good in the community, I’m going to have to ask them to leave and make trades.”

The promotional schedule has also been one full of giving back to the community, as five post-game jersey auctions had been designated for the opening season for the team. There were only supposed to be four, but when weather cancelled a game in January causing it to be rescheduled for March when KISS was in town, the Storm knew they had a great opportunity. With KISS being in town at the TaxSlayer Center the day after the rescheduled game, the team reached out to see about having KISS-themed jerseys. The matter was approved by the band, but only if the money from the jerseys went to charity. The team approved, of course, and the KISS jerseys were born.

From the player KISS jersey auction alone, over $37,000 was raised for the USO of Illinois, and with the auctioning of KISS-signed KISS sweaters, a check for $45,000 was presented to the USO on March 19. This large check pushed the Storm to over $100,000 in donations to local organizations and non-profits this season.

But there’s also the smaller (though no less important things) the team does in the community. The Storm have partnered with the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC)  for a blood drive to help the community give back the way the Storm have all season long. The Storm have throughout the season given back to the community via their fundraising efforts, such as the chuck-a-puck proceeds going to a different non-profit each night, using FEVO to help organizations fundraise, and the jersey auction proceeds going to different local charities. But this is a different way to give back; it’s the community giving back to the community.

Unlike other ways the Storm have given back, this one has far more important benefits. Blood donations can save up to three lives with just one pint of whole blood. Giving blood doesn’t cost a dime, unlike other ways the Storm have given back to the community so far this season. The only cost is an hour of time, and it can be done repeatedly. The human body naturally replenishes its store of blood, with the plasma being replaced within 24 hours of donating, according to the American Red Cross. It takes four to six weeks for the red blood cells to be replaced, however, which is why a person is only allowed to donate every eight weeks.

Storm players made appearances at two of the local Quad City MVRBC locations during this week’s blood drive, and by mentioning the Storm’s blood drive code, donors could earn a free ticket voucher and be entered to win a Storm camo shirt.

The Storm held their John Deere jersey auction on March 22 during their last home game against I-74 rival the Peoria Rivermen. Quad City has one more auction remaining for the season, with the VFW Post 1303 jersey being up for bids on April 5. The money raised on March 22, Big Game #5 in which it was targeted for a large crowd, will go to Birdies for Charities, which helps local non-profits during the John Deere Classic each year in August. The VFW Post 1303 jerseys, which have been worn since November 9 as warm-up jerseys, will be auctioned to raise money for the VFW. The goal for the last two jersey auctions is over $50,000, to put the season total of charity contributions to over $150,000. Tombergs seems confident that the goal can be reached.

The Sin Bin is proud host the SPHL Challenge Round Selection Show on April 7 from 6:30 to 7:30 CST. The Sin Bin’s Matthew Harding and Mike Campos will be joined by coach Pszenyczny and the top three ranked coaches in the SPHL as the challenge round selections are made live on the SPHL’s Facebook page. There will be a show on The Sin Bin SPHL Facebook page half an hour before the main event.

Be sure to follow @SinBinStorm on Twitter for the latest news about the SPHL’s newest team.

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