The Ninth Annual Lehigh Valley Winter Classic, an all-day ice hockey celebration, will take place Feb. 5 at Bethlehem Municipal Ice Rink, 345 Illick’s Mill Rd.
Saturday’s event will feature ice hockey games, raffles, silent auctions, food, merchandise to purchase, and an autograph session by NHL Flyers alumni Bill Clement, Mark Howe, and John LeClair, with all proceeds going to Special Hockey of the Lehigh Valley (SHLV).
SHLV is a recreational ice hockey program for children and young adults with autism, Down syndrome, and other cognitive challenges. The program is run by volunteers, adapting traditional ice hockey rules to make the game safer and more enjoyable for participants.
“It’s incredibly important,” said SHLV president Joe Guellnitz, who, along with his wife Nicole, co-founded SHLV in 2015. “We could run [the program] on the proceeds from the day. The cool part is it’s also a fun day, whether it’s the adult league games or the Polar Bears, everyone is ‘growing out their beards’ for the day.”
The Lehigh Valley Winter Classic will begin at 8 a.m. with four adult hockey games, followed by the Special Hockey Game at 2 p.m. starring the Lehigh Valley Polar Bears taking on the Bucks County Admirals. There will be four more adult hockey games throughout the late afternoon and evening with raffle drawings closing out the event by 10 p.m.
Guellnitz is a former Pleasant Valley High School ice hockey coach, and when he heard about the same type of program elsewhere, it stuck with him.
“It resonated with me, what it does for the players, so I decided to give it a try,” he said.
Also on Saturday, the Lehigh Valley Winter Classic will be honoring and memorializing junior coach and former Parkland player Gus Schwartz, who was killed in a car accident in December when he was rear-ended on his way home from Penn State where he went to college.
Schwartz’s mother Jodi, sisters Natalie and Larissa, who is also a coach, and girlfriend Maddy will drop the puck for the Polar Bears versus Bucks County Admiral game.
“We’ll be thinking of him and honoring him on Saturday,” Guellnitz said. “He touched a lot of lives.”
Guellnitz invites family, friends, and fans to come out and be part of the day, to like and share things on social media, and provide SHLV Polar Bears with the opportunity to continue playing their favorite game: ice hockey.