NEW YORK -- A special cultural exchange involving firefighters from New York, Boston and Moscow was made even more memorable by an appearance from some of the greatest players in hockey history.
The event was the third annual Battles on Ice, a series of hockey games pitting firefighters and first-responders from the three cities against one another. The event kicked off June 25 at Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, NY, where a team comprised of firefighters from New York, Boston and Moscow played against a team of Russian hockey legends, including Viacheslav Fetisov, Pavel Bure, Alexei Yashin, Alexei Kasatonov and Valeri Kamensky.
"It was great. It was a full house. It wasn't a big rink but it was a full house," Bure told NHL.com. "They are truly heroes for saving lives and risking their own lives. When something happens, you can always call them and they're always there. It's a hard job."
The legends team topped the firefighters squad 13-5 in Brooklyn, but the true winner on this night was the spirit of camaraderie enjoyed by everyone involved. That spirit was still going strong the following evening, when the FDNY firefighters suited up at the Sky Rink Chelsea Piers in Manhattan for a game against Moscow's EMERCOM firefighters.
"There is a bond that is so strong among first-responders. No matter where you live or work, we're all in this for one reason: to help people. That's what we do for a living," FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said prior to Wednesday's match. "We love to do it. When you get to meet our compatriots from other countries, like Russia, we have a great relationship and a strong bond. At the end of the day, we're both stronger departments for it and provide better service."
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The New York firefighters won the back-and-forth affair, 4-3, but once again the event was more about honoring the efforts and sacrifices of the brave men and women who serve the people in their respective cities.
Organized in part by the Russian American Foundation, the annual event saw American firefighters travel to Moscow last year for a similar event. This year's installment helped collect money to benefit the Ufa Widows' and Childrens' Fund and allowed everyone involved to strengthen the global bond among those who go above and beyond in the line of duty.
"On 9/11, I was actually in New York and had just signed a contract with the New York Islanders. I remember the shock and the disbelief that everyone felt here. And of course the sacrifices of the FDNY and New York Police will never be forgotten," Yashin said. "We are grateful that we are able to participate and to honor the sacrifices of all first-responders."