A Mathew Blum memorial hockey game will be held Saturday at Winding River Skating Center in Toms River, with a benefit "after-party" following at in Manchester.
Blum, 32, of Forked River, collapsed in the parking lot at the skating center and died of natural causes at Community Medical Center on Feb. 27. Proceeds from the event will benefit his wife Melissa, who is pregnant with their first child.
"We have about 350 guys that play out of the rink. Probably about 50 of them were there that night, watching the whole thing that happened," said Winding River assistant manager Eddie Casler.
"Unfortunately, I was the one that found him in the parking lot. So it kind of really hit home with me," he said.
Players and their families have been giving money and asking what they can do to help ever since Blum died, said Casler. On top of $4500 that has already been raised already, people wanted to do more, he said.
"Hockey people are kind of a different breed...Hockey people stick together; it's almost like a family," said Casler.
Jay Jakubczak is helping to organize the benefit. He met Blum about 10 years ago through hockey, he said, and described him as a close friend and "just a great guy."
"He found out [Melissa] was pregnant a couple days before he died and they just bought a house," said Jakubczak, explaining his desire to assist his friend's widow.
The memorial game will pit members of Blum's ice hockey team against a team of other league players, said Jakubczak.
A Lacey Township official willl drop the puck to start the game and the Mites on Ice youth hockey team will play between the first and second periods, he said.
There will be a Chinese auction featuring donations from area businesses, a 50-50 drawing, a Score-O hockey puck contest, and Matt Blum Memorial Game t-shirts for sale, with all proceeds going to Melissa Blum through a private foundation.
Blum's hockey jersey will be permanently hung in the rink at the conclusion of the event, said Casler.
There will be an "after-party" in Blum's honor at in Manchester, from which 20 percent of the proceeds will also go to Melissa Blum, said owner Charlie Mule.
"I've played hockey my whole life. I probably played against him," said Mule, who said he has played with Casler for more than 20 years.
"Hockey guys are a tight knit group," he said. "I was going to play in the memorial game, but I opted to give my spot to someone else."
Winding River Skating Center is located at 1211 Whitesville Road, Toms River. Its doors will open at 6 p.m. Saturday and the game begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $5. Children 12 years old and under are free.
Charlies Pizza Restaurant & Pub is located at 1980 Rte. 37 #6, Manchester.