The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks are putting aside their heated rivalry and joining forces to raise money for Matt Olson, the Twin Cities hockey player who remains paralyzed after falling during a junior hockey game in suburban Chicago in February.
Starting at noon Sunday, the two franchises began accepting online bids for numerous one-of-a-kind experiences as part of an aggressive fundraising effort on behalf of Olson’s Isanti family. The 20-year-old’s medical expenses are projected to be in the millions of dollars.
Olson, a 2014 graduate of Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, fell into the boards Feb. 21 playing for the Chicago Cougars. For the past month, he has been in a hospital near the rink where he was hurt, unable to move below the shoulders because of a severe spinal injury.
Auction items include opportunities to travel with the Wild or Blackhawks on their team planes to a road game.
A complete list of items for bid and a link to Matt’s fundraising page can be found at www.wild.com/Mo3 or www.chicagoblackhawks.com/Mo3. Auction bids will be accepted until noon March 30.
The Wild and Blackhawks square off Sunday night in Chicago as the auction ramps up, then meet again in St. Paul on March 29 as the bidding winds down.
The teams, along with Fox Sports North and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, will dedicate the March 29 showdown to Olson. In the Xcel Energy Center and on broadcasts, fans will receive frequent auction updates and be encouraged to bid or donate.
Both teams will wear stickers on their helmets to show their support, and the X’s traditional “Let’s Play Hockey!” pregame call will be made by Matt’s brother Steve, grandfather Roger Lelm and cousin Nick Barr.
“Just like so many across the State of Hockey, we wanted to help Matt and his family in any way possible,” Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka said in announcing the collaboration on behalf of the Olson family.
Blackhawks Executive Vice President Jay Blunk said, “The Blackhawks organization stands with the Olson family and encourages our fans to consider supporting this important cause.”
A Totino-Grace alumni hockey game and benefit are scheduled at the Brooklyn Park Community Center at noon April 2. The benefit will include a reception with a silent auction, games and food. A $5 contribution will be collected at the door.
The fundraising effort at gofundme.com/mattolson-3 has collected more than $120,000 as of Sunday on behalf of the family.
More information on the April 2 event is at bit.ly/mattolsonbenefit.