Utica, N.Y. – Utica Comets President Robert Esche, in conjunction with Chapter 490 Military Order of the Purple Heart, announced today that the Utica Comets will be honored as the First Purple Heart Hockey Club; the Comets are only the eighth professional sports team in the country, the second team in New York State, and the first hockey team to be awarded this honor. The Comets enter a list of existing Purple Heart sports teams that includes the Kansas City Royals, Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, and Texas Rangers. The Comets plan to hold an official proclamation ceremony at their annual Military Night on Friday, November 9, when they face off against the Hartford Wolfpack at the Adirondack Bank Center.
The recognition comes as a monumental honor for the Comets, who, in conjunction with the Adirondack Bank Center and the Save of the Day Foundation, have committed to honoring veterans and all military throughout their years in existence. Most notably, the Comets have held numerous military appreciation nights, raising money for the local CNY Veteran’s Outreach Center, Wohl Family Veterans Legal Clinic, and more. Last season, the Comets also began a Hometown Hero initiative, in which they publicly recognize a veteran at each of their home games and organize a meet & greet with Comets Defenseman Jaime Sifers following the game.
Joe Fraccola, Commander of CNY Chapter 490, made the official announcement during a press conference at 72 Tavern & Grill, where he was joined on stage by Rick Redmond, GM of the Adirondack Bank Center and Purple Heart Recipient; Carl Annese, Chairman of the AUD Authority; and Robert Esche, President of the Utica Comets. Each spoke about their ties to the military, both personal and as part of the Comets, and what the night on November 9 will entail.
“Watching the Utica Comets and the fans honoring our veterans as Hometown Heroes displays the tremendous patriotism within our area,” expressed Fraccola. “It recognizes the sacrifices made by our veterans, our active military men & women and their families. The Purple Heart crosses over all military service branches, so we are very pleased that the Utica Comets will be accepting our designation from the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA to be known as a Purple Heart Sports Team. The Utica Comets help their fans walk away with an understanding of what it means to be a veteran, especially the children attending the games.”
“As the General Manager of the Adirondack Bank Center and a Purple Heart Recipient, it is an honor to be part of this great recognition,” said Redmond. “Veterans and their Families can take pride in knowing that the Adirondack Bank Center is a Memorial Auditorium that takes great pride in recognizing those that have served our great Nation.”
“The building was first erected as a Memorial Auditorium, and throughout the years, we have made it a top priority to honor our military through memorials and initiatives,” said Annese. “I know I speak on behalf of the entire Authority when I say that the Purple Heart recognition is of the utmost honor to all of us who have been a part of this building’s impact throughout our community.”
On November 9, the Comets will kick off the celebration with the Official Proclamation Ceremony on the Plaza of the Adirondack Bank Center, featuring local military and Gold Star families. The ceremony will include the raising of a Purple Heart Flag as part of a new Military Branch Memorial outside of the Adirondack Bank Center, featuring a flag from each branch of our nation’s military. The Proclamation Ceremony will conclude with the unveiling of a Battlefield Cross monument that will be permanently affixed to the Plaza; this monument will represent the lives that were lost on the battlefield where military personnel made their ultimate sacrifice.
During a pregame ceremony on the ice, the Comets will unveil a Purple Heart banner, followed by a puck drop with representation from each major conflict since World War II. The Color Guard from 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard will also present the colors during the on-ice ceremony. The first 1,000 fans in attendance during Friday’s game will receive Purple Heart Military Paracord Bracelets.
Once the Comets hit the ice, they will do so in black camo and purple specialty jerseys, a portion of which will be auctioned live at the end of the game, with all proceeds to benefit the CNY Veterans Outreach Center, Chapter 490 Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Chapter 944 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. During the game, for a donation to the game’s beneficiaries, fans will have the chance to sign a new Military Recognition Wall behind section 213, in honor of any military member, past or present.
“In all my years in the sport of hockey, this is by far the biggest honor for not just the organization, but for me personally,” expressed Esche. “The military has always been near and dear to me, with numerous relatives of mine serving throughout their lives, and I will never forget their sacrifices so that us athletes can hit the ice or field every day.”
The announcement of the Purple Heart game rounds out a fun-filled Veterans Day Weekend, including an Alabama Concert at the Adirondack Bank Center the next day on November 10. Veterans are encouraged to visit the box office for a discount on Alabama tickets, with proof of service.
If you, or anyone you know, are a Purple Heart recipient and would like to attend the Comets Purple Heart Military game, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org no later than November 6. The Comets are also taking photo submissions of military members for a pre-and-in-game slideshow during the game. Submissions may be emailed to email@example.com.