ANDOVER, Minnesota — “This is more than just a game,” said Andover seniors Ella Borger and Madison Brown as they prepare to partner with Sophie’s Squad to host a mental health awareness game.
Sophie Wieland took her own life in the summer of 2021 at the age of 14. The nonprofit ‘Sophie’s Squad’ was founded later that year with a mission to ‘improve the mental health of athletes from youth through college by raising mental health awareness’. Solve health problems and remove the stigma associated with asking for help. ”
The organization began hosting “Hockey Hit Back” nights, primarily at the high school and college level, to spread the message that there is always hope and there is always help.
Andover will be in the big game against Proctor/Hermantown on Saturday, January 7, but the main purpose of this game isn’t to win on the ice, but to raise awareness and stigmatize mental health. About the discussion asking for help.
The teal color is used in many aspects of the game, from tape sticks to ribbons in the player’s hair.
The organization’s message is a little more difficult for some members of the Andover team. Ella Borger played alongside goaltender Courtney Stagman and junior Nora Sauer in the Surtell/Sauk Rapids area, where Sophie Wieland lived and played.
“I’m from Surtel and I met her around the rink and met her family. I played with her sister a few times and my brother played with her brother,” Borger said. .
“Doing this for Sophie means a lot to me and a few other girls on the team.”
Junior forward Nora Sauer’s father performs a ceremonial puck drop at the game.
Sophie’s Squad has participated in many special events since the group’s inception. Most recently, her Duluth forward, Minnesota Gabbie Hughes, has done a lot to raise awareness for the group.
Boger and teammate Madison Brown think it’s cool to see older players spreading awareness of the movement, and hope to remain a part of it when they enter college next year. Both skaters are now committed to playing in Division I next season at the University of St. Thomas.
Brown and Borger have battled several injuries this season and have had to find ways to stay mentally strong when they can’t get on the ice.
Brown broke his collarbone earlier in the season and just recently got clearance to skate again. “I’m just trying to stay positive because I just want to help the team as much as possible,” she said.
Boger recently battled a sprained ankle and had to find a way to stay positive off the ice.
“It can be hard to see your teammates and best friends doing what you love, and sometimes you take it for granted, but in the end, it’s more about playing. I will be grateful,” she said.
Proctor/Hermantown are one of the top Class A teams. They will travel to take on Class AA’s top team, Andover, in his Hockey Hitsback game on Saturday, January 7 at 2:00 p.m.
All proceeds from the event will go to Sophie’s squad, and anyone who comes to the game is encouraged to wear teal to support the cause.
To learn more about Sophie’s Squad, its mission, and how you can support the cause, visit their website here.