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The Sweater Song: One Ice Raider's Ask Sews Deeper Ties

By Phillip Goodman
May 5, 2023
Mark Woinicki (pronounced Vuh-nis-ski) played in only two Reno Ice Raiders games alongside his brother and veteran Ice Raider Jesse. Because Jesse was already family, Mark was quickly accepted as family too.

So when the Boston Rockets U13 Premier squad coached by Mark needed help, the Ice Raiders family stepped up.

"Originally I called Simon about our fundraising efforts," said Mark, now in his second year coaching the multi-tier Rockets organization. "We were selling squares, raffling sticks and some UMass Lowell D1 equipment we acquired. I
called Simon to ask if he had any Ice Raiders jerseys we could buy and raffle off. The conversation turned into making us jerseys for our CanAm tournament."

In collaboration with Ice Raiders' and Battle Born Hockey School owner Simon LeBleu and Ice Raiders' graphic/merchandise designer Zeph Fägergren, Mark's team was decked out in customized, pro-looking Rocket-Raider jerseys with classic sweater laces, Ice Raiders and Battle Born Hockey School shoulder patches, plus matching cover shells and socks.
"We wanted to give the Rockets a special third jersey like other NHL teams have," said LeBleu. " We mashed their 'R' and red/white/blue color scheme with the signature Raiders' horns and the shoulder patches paying tribute to both Ice Raiders and BBHS. It shows the collaborations between the two organizations and that we are giving back to tomorrow's hockey players."

Mark has been coaching for over 10 years and credits former Boston Bruin Graeme Townshend with getting him into coaching. Townshend, a Jamaican-born pro, imparted the importance of power skating with skills and drills on youngsters before getting them into the Xs and Os. Now as Director of Hockey for the Rockets, Graeme brought Mark on board with the Rockets two seasons ago.

"Our top team is the 2009s and they play in the premier division in the premier league," said Mark. "Our team travels all over Massachusetts plus Connecticut, Maine, and Upstate New York for competition."

Mark's experience as an Ice Raider was only two games over one weekend in which he scored one power play goal against the McCall Mountaineers in a 5-3 loss in April of 2022.

"Jesse's a legend on our team," said Zeph about Mark's brother. "He wasn't a founder but he came in our second wave of good players. Jesse's such a great guy in the locker room and off the ice he's such a good friend. He already loves everybody and loves being around the game. When we heard that Mark was going to come around, we already knew what it was going to be like. All the expectations Jesse set about Mark were met. Mark fit right in. I'm no owner but as far as I know, the consensus on behalf of the Ice Raiders is that Mark is welcome back anytime."

"It was a really good experience for some high end hockey," said Mark. "The Reno Ice Raiders have a pro program. When you go play for the Ice Raiders, you feel like a pro."

Putting Mark's youth team in pro-jerseys and giving back through community outreach was an automatic green light for Simon and Zeph.

"We're trying to pay it forward to the next generation of hockey players," said Simon. "Doing a jersey is a lot of fun, the process and seeing the final product.
Do what you love, love what you do."

Zeph is an ultimate pro at graphic design and logo creation, having earned degrees in digital media and multimedia communications technology from Utah Valley Univ. plus a masters in entertainment arts and engineering from Univ. of Utah. He designs all the Ice Raiders merchandise from shirts and hoodies to the numerous jerseys donned throughout the seasons.

In just two seasons in Reno, the Ice Raiders wardrobe has included kits for Reno Renegades retro, red/white/blue First Responders, lavender cancer awareness, reverse retro grays, and of course the home blacks.

"Zeph's been instrumental in all our branding," said Simon. "Branding communicates to the world what we're trying to do and Zeph's been able to demonstrate that through everything we've done since the Ice Raiders started in 2015 and especially in the transformation from NorCal to Reno. He's very good at putting together everything that makes Battle Born and Ice Raiders unique in the form of design and our identity through our artwork. Everything Zeph has touched has turned to gold. "

All jerseys are not created equally, especially when trying to limit costs or increase mobility for the players. Sublimation is a manufacturing process where the entire design of the jersey is directly infused into the fabric. Everything from the colors of the jersey, the design, logos, numbers and player names become part of the fabric.

A full custom jersey uses different layers of materials for the stripes and for stitched logos, crests, and numbers. Those layers add to the cost and overall weight of the final product.

"The Ice Raiders use full-custom, professional jerseys when the jerseys go for auctions," said Zeph. "We want them to be as authentic as possible. The cancer jersey was full custom. The Renegades retro was full custom. The First Responders jersey was sublimated. It's a double edged sword, everyone likes the pro-looking quality, but you sacrifice some of the comfortability. When you go sublimated you don't get the look but you get the movement and it feels amazing."

"For the fans, you can buy both, either a full custom or a sublimated," Zeph added. "If I'm a casual fan I'd buy a sublimated. It's got the exact same look from a distance. But If I'm a collector, someone that wants top of the line prestige buying, I want the full custom. There is a cost difference though and for some that cost is worth it."

The Rockets' jerseys drew such positive feedback from the players for their sharp appearance and the ease of playing that the kids wore their new duds for the rest of their 10-game season.

"We owe a debt to the game," said LeBleu. "This is how we repay that debt. Hockey has given us so much: the power of learning how to deal with adversity, how to show up early and stay late, how to work within a team and work collaboratively. This is how every player should treat the game and this is how hockey will grow."


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