October 2013 Marks 15 Years of NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer™ Campaign

Each year during the month of October, the National Hockey League and the Players Association begin the season by teaming up to raise money to donate to various cancer research organizations. The effort has raised millions of dollars for cancer research since it began in December 1998.

Since 1998, Hockey Fights Cancer™ has raised and disbursed almost $13 million to various charitable organizations. The effort brings together the National Hockey League, including "NHL Member Clubs, NHL Alumni, the NHL Officials' Association, Professional Hockey Trainers and Equipment Managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America," and the NHLPA in a joint philanthropic venture.

The entities raise money through online auctions, local tournaments, individual contributions (including from your mobile device), and through a special merchandise section of Shop.NHL.com. The program has five major beneficiaries (emphasis added):

Hockey Fights Cancer partners with five cancer organizations to help fund and raise awareness about new and existing cancer-fighting programs. Hockey Fights Cancer will donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to fund an LLS portfolio of pediatric and young adult blood cancer research grants. A grant to Prostate Cancer Canada will be used to help fund its Graduate Studentship in Prostate Cancer Research Program, which provides financial support for junior prostate cancer researchers. ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer will use its Hockey Fights Cancer donation to provide free mobile testing in select markets. Movember has earmarked its Hockey Fights Cancer grant to fund its men's health initiatives, specifically in the areas of prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network will allocate its donation to its Community for Progress program for one of its 2013 pancreatic cancer research grantees. In addition, Hockey Fights Cancer will distribute $5,000 to each NHL Club to support local cancer organizations in their respective markets.

But the effort has also had many downstream beneficiaries in recent years, with many disbursements being made directly to community organizations involved in actual medical research.

Not All Charity Drives Are Equal

Reports in recent years indicate that the National Football League was "pinkwashing" the game—that is, profiting from its involvement with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's "pink" issue awareness campaign. The numbers for the NFL were pretty gruesome:

When we contacted the NFL's online shop for clarification, we were told 5% of the sales are being donated to the American Cancer Society. If the pink products have a typical 100% mark-up at retail, that means the NFL is keeping 90% of the profit from the sale of Breast Cancer Awareness gear.

And then consider that only 70.8% of money the [American Cancer Society] receives goes towards research and cancer programs. So, for every $100 in sales of pink gear, only $3.54 is going towards research while the NFL is keeping approximately $45 (based on 100% mark-up).

Ticketmaster informs me via email this morning, too, that it will donate a paltry $0.10 for every NFL ticket it sells, up to $40,000, to benefit cancer causes:


Yikes. Remember that donation figure the next time you pay a $5 fee to Ticketmaster for the privilege of doing business with or through them.

The National Hockey League participates in Hockey Fights Cancer™ through its charitable arm, the National Hockey League Foundation. According to the foundation's 2011 Form 990 (the income tax return form for nonprofits; read the full document below) for the fiscal year ending June 2012 (the most recent filing was not available by the time of this writing), the NHL not only spent all the money it raised from Hockey Fights Cancer™ on charitable organizations; it spent more on charity than it raised during the last full season it played, with a substantial portion of revenues going to cancer-specific charities.

According to page 1 of the document, the NHL Foundation had an adjusted net income of $327,470. Of that figure, the Hockey Fights Cancer™ campaign was responsible for nearly two thirds of the net, raising $210,000. On page 11 of the document, the NHL Foundation reported that it allocated $912,293 in grants awarded during FY 2011. Of that total, the NHL Foundation disbursed $164,750 to cancer-specific charities, and thousands more to health facilities and research universities, including $5,000 to Vanderbilt University's Monroe Carrell, Jr. Children's Hospital in Nashville.

The National Hockey League is, unsurprisingly, the NHL Foundation's largest benefactor, giving over to $1.5 million to its charitable sister organization in FY 2011. Much of the Foundation's endowment is tied up in investments, which are outlined in the Form 990.

The Nashville Predators will participate in two Hockey Fights Cancer™ Awareness Nights: October 22 at the Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild, and October 26 at Bridgestone Arena against the St. Louis Blues. Individuals and organizations wishing to make direct contributions to Hockey Fights Cancer™ can find more information here.

National Hockey League Foundation Form 990 for 2011