GLENS FALLS, NY (NEWS10) – New Year’s Eve is a special time at Cool Insuring Arena. There’s more energy on the ice than usual this year.
The Adirondack Thunder’s year-end game begins each year with a puck drop by a special member of the community. That year, Lisa Brock dropped the disc to start the game, whose reasons for being there were both personal and wide-ranging, as her late husband’s face shone from the screens hanging over the rink.
Brock, Lisa’s late husband, passed away earlier this year after a battle with malignant melanoma and lymph node cancer. When the puck hit the ice, bidding on over two dozen special Thunder jerseys made specifically for Friday night’s game peaked; all for a good cause; one that Lisa is quite familiar with.
“It felt wonderful,” she said. “I can’t believe how this community came together to support my husband.”
The New Year’s Eve game capped a season of fundraising for Operation Santa Claus’ Small Business Challenge, which encourages local businesses across the region to raise money for coats, hats, gloves and more for children in need across the North Country. Hockey fans bid on the jerseys before the game, with donations expected to surpass $100,000 by the end of Friday night’s Thunder game.
Lisa and Pete Brock participated in the challenge for the last eight years prior to Pete’s illness. Pete took the helm of a string of giving years that has only grown, from a modest $1,500 in the first year to $65,000 in 2020.
“It was all him. It was all Peter,” Lisa said. “I was just there to support him. When he died these people from the church came to pick it up and it was brilliant.”
The “guys” Lisa is talking about are Mike Sullivan – of GA Bove Fuel Co. – and Dan Miner – WCKM morning show host and Adirondack Thunder games announcer. They both knew and worked with Pete Brock at his fundraiser last year and if you ask them who they think is really at the heart of the current life of Operation Santa Claus in the Glens Falls area, they won’t give you their own names. It’s the name of the man who brought them together.
“Once he passed, it was only natural,” Sullivan said. “I became close with Pete and Lisa about five years ago, and when he died, one day we (Sullivan and Miner) just looked at each other and were like, ‘Well, let’s get down to business.'”
“We never really talked about it,” Miner added.
Instead of talking, they acted. Last year, Pete Brock raised around $65,000 for Operation Santa Claus, bringing warm winter clothing to children in Warren, Washington, North Saratoga and South Essex and Hamilton counties. In his memory, Sullivan and Miner spearheaded a campaign earlier this year that raised nearly $100,000 as of Friday afternoon; all in her friend’s memory.
The fundraiser began in September with a reunion at the former Sandy’s Clam Bar on South Street. These and some early small business donations immediately totaled around $37,000. From there, the trail included a $9,000 pizza-eating challenge and quite a bit of range through Miner’s radio links via WCKM.
“When we acquired, our target was $65,001,” Miner said. “I had no idea going into six figures.”
“I definitely thought the $65,000 goal was doable,” Sullivan added. “But then we went to $80,000, then $85,000. I think Dan flinched a little when I told him that day, but I said to him, ‘Hey, $100,000 is within reach.’ And that’s what we’re staring at right now.”
About an hour into Friday night’s game, the jerseys alone had grossed over $8,000.
Community support for charitable causes is a common sight in the North Country, with events such as the South High Marathon Dance at nearby South Glens Falls High School. In the arena itself, food pantry drives and the Salvation Army teddy bear toss are just a few examples of how hockey lovers are giving back. The special red and green signed jerseys that some lucky fans will win on Friday night are a testament to both the passion for the Games and the passion the Glens Falls area has ripened with.
“The whole community came out to support this cause and my late husband and that’s why it’s such a great community,” said Lisa Brock minutes after dropping the puck. “That’s why I will always live here.”
In the hours leading up to the game, there was great confidence that the number would be reached. Nevertheless, the nerves were high.
“I’m so nervous about tonight,” Sullivan said, which immediately caused Miner to burst out laughing at his side. “I know the moment he announces this number, I’m going to lose it.”
“I’ll try not to cry when I announce it,” Miner confirmed.
The New Year’s Eve puck drop is an annual tradition; at least for every year that the Adirondack Thunder could play. In 2019, the puck was thrown by Cecily Geraghty, a World War II veteran and nursing home resident in Queensbury who turned 100 the following New Year’s Day. Geraghty celebrated an early 102nd birthday on Thursday surrounded by her friends and neighbors at The Landing at Queensbury.
Friday night’s game got even more special for the Thunder as it comes after being postponed four games. The postponement came in early December when scores of players and team members contracted COVID-19; enough that playing would be impossible.
After a season-long hiatus during the 2020-21 season, even a brief two-week slip feels like an eternity. And indeed, even Miner feels it.
“It’s great to be back. Saturday nights are not the same. Nobody wants to stay at my house,” Miner said with a hearty laugh.
For Lisa Brock, this year’s New Year’s Eve is about celebrating the memory of her husband, but also reaffirming what Operation Santa Claus means to her. Next year she plans to be actively involved in raising money for children from the North again.
“Oh yes,” she said with a crooked smile. “We’re not done with that yet.”