By Ian Oland
Behind almost every NHL player is a strong and supportive significant other who does not get nearly enough credit for the work they do behind the scenes.
For Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, that’s longtime girlfriend Nicola Minarikova.
Nicola, a native of Prague, Czech Republic, has long been passionate about interior design but with the world struggling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she wondered how she could do more and make a real difference.
“I was thinking that I had to do something,” Nicola said in an interview. “I wanted to look back at this crisis one day thinking that I did something good.”
After thinking through several ideas, Nicola began considering Michal’s vast platform that hockey has given him. “I kept saying to Michal that we could auction his stick,” Nicola said. But then she started thinking even bigger. “I thought we could do the whole team and then I thought why not some other teams in NHL, too?”
Nicola first presented the idea to the Washington Capitals, who “loved the idea and were on board right away,” she said.
The Caps, leveraging their longtime partnership with Handbid, utilized the platform to organize and host the auction. Every player on the team, including superstar Alex Ovechkin, agreed to donate a stick and other signed memorabilia.
All that was left was a name. Inspired by her original idea of just auctioning off Michal’s stick, Nicola came up with an apt pun and called it the Stick Together Auction.
On April 23, the Capitals officially announced the Stick Together Auction in a press release and said it would benefit Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s Feeding the Frontlines fund. According to the team, the money will help provide meals to heroes in the medical community. Chefs from the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards, along with DC Central Kitchen, are making meals for frontline first responders and health care workers and delivered to area hospitals.
All the items available in the Capitals’ Stick Together Auction can be seen here.
Nicola, who can sometimes be shy because Czech is her first language, announced the auction on her Instagram Story in flawless English.
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Earlier today Nicola Minarikova announced the Stick Together auction, a fundraiser to support bringing meals to those working tirelessly on the frontlines of this pandemic. She was joined by Brandi Holtby, @jennerjensen12 @lauren.oshie, @taylor_pischke, @paigemdowd, @michalkempny, and @nick_jensen3 who are all using their platforms to bring much needed attention this important cause (🎥: @m.a.r.m.e.l.a.d.a)
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“I asked the better halves on the team to help me with the social media and sharing,” Nicola said. “All the girls were very supportive!”
Then Nicola turned to see if other teams would participate. Nicola leveraged her connections from across the NHL, including former Capital Chandler Stephenson and girlfriend Tasha.
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Excited to be apart of the #sticktogether initiative, alongside other NHL teams during this time of crisis 🏒. Join us for an on-line auction of NHL players hockey sticks, open until May 1st . All proceeds will go to local food banks in Las Vegas to help overcome the coronavirus crisis. You can find the link in my bio👆🏻
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She also got support from one of her best friends, Nikola Panik.
“Nikola helped me contact girls from other teams. She was the biggest help.”
So far, five NHL teams in total including the Capitals, are hosting their own Stick Together Auctions including the Vegas Golden Knights, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Arizona Coyotes. “More teams promised to participate too,” Nicola said.
“We would love to have all NHL on board but we don’t have everyone’s number,” Nicola said.
Nicola was particularly heartened by the New York Rangers whose players, including superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Artemi Panarin, all took selfies holding up a piece of paper that read STICK TOGETHER and their sticks.
“When I saw the numbers and all the posts I cried a little every time,” Nicola said.
So far, the auctions have raised tens of thousands of dollars to provide meals for frontline workers and other coronavirus-inspired charities.
“I still can’t believe this is happening and I would like to thank everyone for participating,” Nicola said. “The hockey community – it’s the best.”
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Hockey is a community on and off the ice. The @vegasgoldenknights are teaming up with other NHL teams because in times of crisis we should #sticktogether 🏒 Join us for an on-line auction of NHL players hockey sticks starting today, April 24th until May 1st . All proceeds will go to local food banks in Las Vegas to help overcome the coronavirus crisis. You can find the link in my bio👆🏻
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Headline photo courtesy of @michalkempny and @m.a.r.m.e.l.a.d.a
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