HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — When Jeff Russell was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he felt that Quinnipiac University’s ice hockey team could be the conduit to raising awareness.
Russell was a part of Hamden university’s first hockey team. The group, which won a national championship earlier this year, is now giving him a way to spread his message — and help end the disease.
Russell will strap on gear for Saturday’s “Over 40” alumni game, just as he did in the mid 1970s. Another alum, current assistant coach Joe Dumais, will help out with the game.
“He saw the affliction and said, ‘How could we help?'” Russell said.
Fans are invited to the over 40 game at 11 a.m., followed by the under 40 game. Both games will be at M&T Arena. There will also be the opportunity to take a photo with the national championship trophy.
Russell leading the charge isn’t a surprise. As a young teen, the Orange native was writing game notes in the New Haven Blades program. At 17, he delivered the sports for WELI Radio.
“And they really had no sports department at all, and they said, ‘OK, kid, just give us some tapes,'” Russell said. “I did a few things and I had the Saturday night talk show for three hours.”
It was in his blood. His parents owned the theater company The Costume Bazaar. His father, Joey Russell, was a performer — and even appeared on News 8 as Happy the Clown.
Russell followed his time in radio by working for the New Haven Nighthawks. He developed lightweight goalie pads that were used by professional athletes like Reggie Lemelin. He’s currently fundraising for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“This is not going to be the first event,” Russell said. “I’m hoping to raise money, to maybe get some type of video, or audio, or live appearance from Michael himself.”