Keeping the music alive: hockey teams unite for fundraiser

October 25, 2017

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Submitted by Kenzie Giese

The United hockey team held an event for Russ Ebnet on Oct. 21 at Burger Moe's in St. Paul to announce their fundraising efforts. “[...][You] aren’t just playing for yourself, you’re playing for your whole community. It’s helping us all become bigger people and realize how important it is to help out in things you believe in,” United player Kenzie Giese said.

With hockey comes camaraderie, and the Spartan and United hockey teams are no exception. Hockey weaves familial threads of tradition and communities together, so when something significant for a member of said family changes, it is no longer the same.

Take Russ Ebnet, for example. His journey with the hockey program began almost thirty years ago where he found a new home for himself at Drake Arena. He was hired by to play music. His task was simple: play the organ, stuff the crowd with music, and radiate energy. That wasn’t enough for him, though. Ebnet tirelessly memorized the rules, the rivalries, the player’s names and positions, and the team’s schedules. Ebnet lived for the game.

This upcoming season, however, Ebnet may not be able to attend the games he has spent so many hours studying. Ebnet no longer owns a vehicle and currently is not in a financial position to buy a new one. This is when the family component of hockey comes into play. In a true testament to the greater hockey community and SPA athletics as a whole, both United and SPA hockey teams have set up a Go Fund Me page for Ebnet to raise enough money for a used car. US Athletic Administrative Assistant Julie Friend created the page with the hopes to unite the SPA and United hockey teams for their beloved friend, Ebnet.

“Russ has been doing United and Spartan games for a while, and he’s been doing Minnesota hockey games in the high school and junior level just playing the organ and music for the past 30 years. This would be his 30th year, and he might not be able to do it if he doesn’t have a car, so our head coach thought it would be a great idea to have a fundraiser and put a Go Fund Me page up so that he could be able to come in and do the music and cheer for United and the Spartans,” Friend said.

Without Ebnet at SPA and United hockey games, there would be no music flare that prompts the crowd’s excitement. His contributions for the past thirty years would be missed.

“I think he just brings such a passion to the game, and when you see someone who volunteers his time, that he’s not getting paid for, to just bring that passion to both Spartan hockey and United hockey, he brings everybody’s energy up. He shows what it means to be a true fan of the sport and the game. He’s like an Encyclopedia of the game he knows the rivalries, who’s good on what team. It’s all pretty special,” Friend said.

Ebnet connects with every player, teammate, and fan in the crowd. His presence enriches the culture of hockey at SPA. He works relentlessly for the student athletes he plays music for. United hockey player Kenzie Giese reflects upon the impact Ebnet has had on her team:

“Russ is always there for us. Every game day he is there before everybody else, setting up his organ and getting his computer and the warm- up songs ready to go. Every time you see him he always says hi and stops you to have a conversation. He not only knows your name, but he knows the team stats and how everybody is doing. I always look forward to seeing him,” Giese said.

Ebnet’s active companionship with the SPA hockey program gives them an abundance of energy.

He shows what it means to be a true fan of the sport and the game. ”

— US Athletic Assistant Julie Friend

“He’s a very charismatic person, and he cares a lot about the team and a lot about the players and shows a lot of energy while he plays his music. He always goes and talks to us,  and he’s nice to talk too,” Spartan hockey player Andy Ellis said.

In the bustling crowds of hockey arenas, sounds inhabit every corner. Hockey sticks make a ruckus when they hit the ice, the stomping of the crowd rings through ears, and the referee’s whistle echoes. Despite the discord, Ebnet can always be heard playing his organ. It is his music that the players have grown to cherish, and it is this music that make all other sounds in the hockey arena fade into background noise. Ebnet captures the arena, and his music serves as a forefront to both SPA and United hockey games.

“Instead of having typical music for our warm ups, Russ will play his organ. All the fans really enjoy it, he definitely has brought more fans to our games. He would also come to our locker room and talk to all of us and bring such a positive vibe with him. It would leaves the players happy and talking,” Spartan hockey player Adam Zukowski said.

The goal for the Go Fund Me is to raise between $7500 to $8500 for Ebnet to be able to purchase a car that is both economically sound and has enough storage room for his music equipment. The primary purpose of the fund is to benefit Ebnet. Further than that, though, it’s for his dedication, homage, and commitment he pays forward to the SPA hockey community. The hockey teams are not simply coming together to raise money: they are fulfilling a familial obligation both United and SPA hockey feel towards Ebnet.

“I would say the biggest thing is how much community can play into athletics and having everyone come together for a cause like this. It’s obvious that sports are a great way to bring people together. At the end of the day, there is more than just the wins and the losses. It’s very cool to see communities come together for somebody like Russ,” Friend said.

The value of a team goes beyond the rink. The SPA hockey program is not only coming together to support Ebnet, they are teaching student athletes the importance of serving one’s community with dignity and integrity.

“I think this shows that [you] aren’t just playing for yourself, you’re playing for your whole community. It’s helping us all become bigger people and realizing how important it is to help out in things you believe in,” Giese said.

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