In the words of Saint Paul Police Federation President, Dave Titus, the Saint Paul Fire team “better come prepared.”
With a few collegiate players, a former Canadian junior player and a former Bemidji State Beaver, Ashley Leopold, on his team, Titus is pretty confident that the first Guns N’ Hoses hockey tilt will fall in favor of the police.
“Oh, we’re going to kick their [butt], that’s the bottom line,” Titus said.
On Friday night, a game between Saint Paul Police Federation and the Local 21 Fire will help kick off the 2015 installment of Hockey Day Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. at Holman Field in Saint Paul. While it will mark the first time the two have gone head to head on the ice — especially for two groups that are pretty competitive — the main thing is to have fun and honor those who have served our country and their families.
“The two unions have a very good working relationship with each other and it truly is in fun,” Titus said. “Although we do have very competitive people on this team. The rules of engagement were whoever plays on either team has to be a union member for Fire or Police. We’re playing out of respect for all those who have served our country. It’s all about our military, our veterans, and we honor our members who have served our country also.”
While Titus is serving as the Police coach, his counterpart Mike Smith, President of Local 21 Fire, is simply hoping everyone goes out and has a great time.
“I think it’s the start of something that could be a great event,” Smith said. “It’s all for charity, all for fun. I hope everybody goes out, has a great time and enjoys it. And really absorbs being a part of Hockey Day Minnesota.”
While the Guns & Hoses contest will be the first game played on the Holman Field ice as a part of Hockey Day Minnesota, the whole weekend will link hockey in Minnesota with military members, as Holman Field itself serves as a station for the Minnesota Army National Guard. In fact, the unit that was stationed there is currently deployed in Kuwait, operating all of the helicopter and army aviation in southwest Asia.
By way of honoring them, military aircraft that the servicemen actually use will be parked around the rink, including two Blackhawk helicopters, a cargo plane and a Chinook helicopter. The crews who operate them will also be on hand to speak with fans or anyone interested in learning more.
Hockey Day Minnesota has also partnered with Serving Our Troops, an organization that provides services for soldiers and their families in Minnesota and around the world.
Both Smith and Titus said it would be great if the event turned into an annual meeting, especially if it continued to serve as a charity. But Smith added that if there is a second game next year, he’d strap on the skates if Titus agreed to as well.
Whether that will actually happen remains to be seen.
While the Police and Fire forces are looking forward to their bout, they aren’t the only ones playing Friday night. Following their game, the Minnesota National Guard team will take on the 38 Canadian Battle Group based out of Winnipeg at 9 p.m.
“Our soldiers and our airmen have a deep passion for hockey,” Col. Kevin Olson said, the Minnesota National Guard Director of Communications. “From our military relationships, we routinely work with the Canadian Armed Forces … So we have a relationship with the Winnipeg based 38 Canadian Battle Group. They’re no different than us; they have a real interest in hockey and they’ve got a team.”
Olson noted that the Minnesota Army National Guard team plays regularly against the Minnesota Air National Guard, so they’ve got some chemistry already. Defending the Blue Line will provide the team with digital camouflage print jerseys with “USA” printed on the front and the players’ names on the backs.
Olson added that for all of the weekend’s events at Holman Field, they’ve set up a Skype and Satellite feed so that those who are serving in Kuwait won’t miss a moment of the action. They hope to get this set up for both the Gophers game and the Wild game on Saturday night.
As the weekend is a celebration of hockey and a way to honor our troops, Smith summed it up nicely, noting that whatever the outcomes of the games might be, there truly won’t be any winners or losers; it’s all about having fun.