GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New Year’s Eve is a special time at Cool Insuring Arena. This year, there’s more energy on the ice than usual.

The Adirondack Thunder’s end-of-year game starts every year with a puck drop by a special member of the community. This year, dropping the disc to start the game was Lisa Brock, whose reasons for being there were both personal and far-reaching, as the face of her late husband shone from the screens hanging above the hockey rink.

Brock, Lisa’s late husband, passed away earlier this year after a battle with malignant melanoma, as well as lymphatic cancer. As the puck hit the ice, bids hit the ceiling on over two dozen special Thunder jerseys made special for Friday night’s game; all for a good cause; one with which Lisa is quite familiar.

“It felt wonderful,” she said. “I can’t believe the way this community came together in support of my husband.”

Lisa Brock and family smile under their masks up at Cool Insuring Arena after dropping the puck for the Adirondack Thunder’s New Year’s Eve game against the Newfoundland Growlers in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

The New Year’s Eve game capped off a season of fundraising for Operation Santa Claus’ small business challenge, which prompts local businesses across the region to raise money for coats, hats, gloves and more for kids in need across the North Country. Hockey fans have been bidding on the jerseys ahead of the game, with a donation total set to surpass $100,000 by the end of the Thunder’s game on Friday evening.

Lisa and Pete Brock took part in the challenge over the last eight years prior to Pete’s illness. Pete took the helm on a series of fundraising years that have only grown and grown, from a humble $1,500 raised in year 1 to $65,000 in 2020.

“It was all him. It was all Peter,” Lisa said. “I was just there to support him. When he passed away, these guys in the community came to pick it up, and it’s been outstanding.”

The “guys” Lisa is talking about are Mike Sullivan – of G.A. Bove Fuel Co. – and Dan Miner – WCKM morning show host and voice of the Adirondack Thunder’s games. Both knew and worked with Pete Brock on his fundraising in year’s past, and if you ask them who they feel is really at the core of Operation Santa Claus’s current life in the Glens Falls region, it’s not their own names they’ll give you. It’s the name of the man who brought them together.

“Once he passed, it was only natural,” said Sullivan. “I got close to Pete and Lisa about five years ago, and once he passed away, we (Sullivan and Miner) just looked at each other one day and said, ‘Well, let’s get to it.'”

“We never really talked about it,” Miner added.

Instead of talking, they acted. Last year, Pete Brock raised around $65,000 for Operation Santa Claus, bringing warm winter clothes to kids around Warren, Washington, northern Saratoga and southern Essex and Hamilton counties. This year, in his memory, Sullivan and Miner have spearheaded an effort that raised nearly $100,000 as of Friday afternoon; all in their friend’s memory.

The fundraising began in September, with a reunion held for the former Sandy’s Clam Bar on South Street. That and some early small business challenge donations immediately amounted to around $37,000 raised. From there, the road has included a pizza-eating challenge that raised $9,000, and a whole lot of outreach through Miner’s radio connections through WCKM.

“When we took over, our goal was $65,001,” said Miner. “I didn’t have any idea of hitting six figures.”

“I definitely thought the $65K goal would be manageable,” added Sullivan. “But then we got up to $80K, then we got up to $85K. I think Dan cringed a little when I told him that day, but I said to him, ‘Hey, $100K is in reach.’ And that’s what we’re staring at right now.”

At about an hour into Friday night’s game, the jerseys alone had raised over $8,000.

Community support surging up to support charity is a common sight in the North Country, with events like the South High Marathon Dance at nearby South Glens Falls High School. At the arena itself, food pantry drives and the Salvation Army teddy bear toss are just a few ways that hockey game lovers give back. The special red-and-green signed jerseys that some lucky fans will win Friday night are a testament to both the passion for the games, and the passion for giving, that the Glens Falls area is ripe with.

“The whole community came out to support this cause, and to support my late husband, and that’s why it’s such a great community,” said Lisa Brock, minutes after dropping the puck. “That’s why I will always live here.”

In the hours before the game, confidence was high that the number would be reached. Even so, nerves were high, too.

“I’m so nervous about tonight,” said Sullivan, immediately triggering Miner to break out into a laugh by his side. “I know that the moment he announces that number, I’m going to lose it.”

“I’m gonna try not to cry when I announce it,” Miner confirmed.

The New Year’s Eve puck drop is an annual tradition; at least for every year when the Adirondack Thunder has been able to play. In 2019, the puck was cast by Cecily Geraghty, a World War 2 veteran and Queensbury nursing home resident who turned 100 years old on the following New Year’s Day. Geraghty celebrated an early 102nd birthday on Thursday, surrounded by her friends and neighbors at The Landing at Queensbury.

The Friday night game was also made even more special for the Thunder, as it comes after four games were postponed. Earlier in December, the postponement came as numerous players and team staff contracted COVID-19; enough so that playing would be impossible.

After a season-long pause during what would have been the 2020-21 season, even a brief two-week blip feels like forever. And sure enough, even Miner feels it.

“It’s great to be back. Saturday nights aren’t the same. Nobody wants to stay home with me,” Miner said, with a hearty laugh.

For Lisa Brock, New Year’s Eve this year is about celebrating the memory of her husband, but also affirming what Operation Santa Claus means for her. Next year, she plans to be an active part of raising money for North Country kids, all over again.

“Oh, yeah,” she said with a wry smile. “We’re not done with this.”