The mood on the ice at Drylands Arena in Ashcroft was as light-hearted as the mood in the stands when the “Guns and Hoses” first responders charity hockey match took place on Saturday, Jan. 11.
Some 400 people were on hand to watch as a Firefighters team—made up of firefighters from Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Merritt, and Lillooet—took on a Law Enforcement team made up of RCMP members from Ashcroft, Clinton, Merritt, Kamloops, Lytton, and Logan Lake, City of Kamloops bylaw, and retired police officers.
The event was by donation, and there were two 50/50 draws, a basket raffle, and a puck toss, with the winner taking home an early 1980s Honda 110cc motorbike. More than $4,700 was raised, and Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Department (AVFD) Chief Josh White says he was blown away by the attendance and the amount raised.
“We figured we’d have half that [attendance], since this was the first one. I didn’t expect that crowd and that level of support. It’s amazing.”
The event was the brainchild of Ashcroft RCMP Cst. Chris Buckland, and from the get-go it was obvious that the match was going to be less “game seven of the Stanley Cup finals” and more “Harlem Globetrotters on ice”. During the pre-game skate several of the Firefighters team members sported Hanson brothers wigs, and when Law Enforcement coach Cst. Ryan Goffic called a time-out early in the first period, it wasn’t to rally his team; it was to allow the players to have a doughnut break.
Not to be outdone, Firefighters’ coach White then called a time-out. The players proceeded to set up deck chairs on the ice and enjoy a snack of hamburgers before getting on with the game.
Not long before the intermission, Law Enforcement player Pat Fitzgerald—a retired police officer—took a Cristiano Ronaldo-level dive, and seemed to have trouble identifying which of his legs was “injured”. He was helped (read: dragged) off the ice, only to return in the second half, when he took off his police jersey to reveal a firefighters jersey. Fitzgerald, who recently joined the AVFD, played the rest of the game for the Firefighters team.
The hi-jinks continued throughout the game. One of the Firefighters was given a ticket for speeding, while the Law Enforcement goalie got hosed—literally—in the second half. During the intermission, some of the Firefighters noticed that the Law Enforcement players had left their sticks lying around in a mess, and helpfully taped them together, then taped them to the net to tidy things up (thoughtfully, they also left coffee and a box of doughnuts, several of which White sampled).
The referees were Alf Trill and Jonah Anstett, and a surprising number of the calls Anstett—who is a member of the AVFD—made were against Law Enforcement team members. However, White says that none of the goals were scripted, and consternation set in when the Law Enforcement team scored two goals in the first sixty seconds, adding a third before the two-minute mark.
“After the first two goals, Ryan Goffic radioed me about being two up,” says White. “He asked ‘Do you feel the pressure yet?’ I replied ‘All I can hear is the sound of bacon sizzling over the radio.’
“There were so many laughs. When I went to bed that night my face was still hurting from smiling and laughing so much. Everyone I talked to said they loved it, and they want to see it happen again.”
White wasn’t expecting to raise so much money, figuring they might get $2,000 at most. The funds will allow the AVFD to purchase 100 combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, which will be provided at no charge to seniors and low income households in Ashcroft and Cache Creek.
“We’ll be liaising with the Elizabeth Fry Society and The Equality Project to identify people who need the detectors,” says White. “People can call us for advice on how to install them, or we can do it.”
Both teams sported handsome jerseys, with the Firefighters’ jerseys provided by the Ashcroft Firefighters Association. The police jerseys were donated by Sue and Alana Peters when they owned the Cache Creek Husky. Cassidy Eaton and Gary Gross, representing Emergency Support Services, collected the pucks after the warm-up and the puck toss, and AVFD members Nancy Duchaine and Vivian McLean, with Colin Mastin, led the crowd in the singing of “O Canada”. Emcee Barbara Roden ripped up the script—which said that with three minutes to go, the losing team would pull their goalie—when the score was tied 7–7 at that point.
“I turned to [firefighter] Tyler Bell and said ‘What do we do?’” says White. “He just said ‘Game on!’”
Buckland failed to score on a penalty shot, after the Firefighters pulled a surprise move (another player behind the net), and three-on-three overtime ended with Bell scoring to notch an 8–7 win for the Firefighters. Asked if there will be a re-match, White says “We have a title to defend, and I suppose we should give the police a chance to try to claim it.”
On a more serious note, White gives kudos to Chris Buckland. “This was his brainchild. He did an incredible job of rallying everyone and getting sponsors on board. I have huge respect for him.
“And thank you to the sponsors, the volunteers, and the crowd who came out to support us. It was just amazing.”