Hockey Talks, mental health awareness

Griffins game on Saturday, Jan. 7 will be presented with reduced stimuli
Photo by Nicolas Carrillo, courtesy of Grand Rapids Griffins

The Grand Rapids Griffins will host a “sensory-friendly” Mental Health Awareness Night Saturday, Jan. 7. The game will be presented with decreased auditory and visual stimuli in consideration of those who are sensitive to the sights and sounds that often accompany large-scale sporting events. 

Last season, the Griffins became the first AHL franchise to participate in the Hockey Talks campaign, an initiative within the NHL that was started by the Vancouver Canucks to shed light on mental health issues.

 “We are proud to partner with the Griffins to raise awareness, provide a place of calm for those who may need it, and to bring the conversation to the forefront at Van Andel Arena,”  said Vonnie Woodrick, founder of “i Understand,” a nonprofit organization that offers compassionate comfort for those affected by suicide or mental/brain health illness and pain.

Saturday’s game against the Texas Stars will take into consideration those members of the West Michigan community who are sensitive to loud noises and strobing lights. There will be sensory rooms available away from the action, which includes seating and activities away from the crowd noise. 

“One of my passions is bringing the conversation of mental health to everyday places to normalize the conversation. I applaud the Griffins for recognizing the importance of mental health and the sensory needs of others with this meaningful game,” said Woodrick.

The Grand Rapids Griffins –  together with “i Understand” –  are asking fans to show support for positive change surrounding the issues of mental health by sharing personal messages and support on social media in order to create an open dialogue about mental health by using the hashtags #HockeyTalks and #iunderstandloveheals.

Click here to see all of the sensory-friendly amenities available throughout the game. 

Each ticket purchased for Friday’s game, using this link, includes: One “i understand” stress ball; One “Love Heals” sticker from “i Understand” and a $3 per ticket donation to the “i Understand” organization to help support its cause of bringing awareness to mental health in West Michigan and across the nation.

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