A team of military personnel, flanked by four Oilers alumni, took on a team of eight MPs and five Flames alumni at the second annual Afterburner Cup at J.J. Parr on Saturday.
“Our strategy is to win,” said Wing Commander Colonel David Wheeler. Wheeler's strategy proved to be the winning one, taking his hockey team to a 14-7 victory over the MPs and Flames' Team Storseth.
“Hopefully they don't beat us too badly. That's why we got the hired guns,” said MP and team leader Brian Storseth before the game. Storseth said the MPs, although likely to lose the match, like to play for fun and raise money for a great cause.
The game began with the dropping of the puck by Master-Corporal Chris Downey and John Moreland, from Veterans UN/NATO Canada. Oilers alumnus Dave Lumley presented Downey with an authentic Oilers jersey with his name on the back.
“I was a little bummed out about not having the chance to play, so when they told me I was going to drop the puck, that's the next best thing to me,” said Downey. Downey played two years ago against Calgary alumni but was unable to play this year due to injuries from deployment in Afghanistan.
Less than four minutes into the game Lumley scored for Team Wheeler. Team Storseth evened it up soon after with a goal from Flames alumnus Ron Stern, assisted by colleague Tony Stiles.
4 Wing's Rob Nickerson then scored a second goal for Wheeler's team, assisted by Master-Corporal Jeff Bond. Team Storseth tied it up near the mid-point of the first with a goal by the Flames' Jamie Macoun, assisted by Stiles and MP Rob Clarke.
Referees separated Storseth from Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, playing for Team Wheeler, when the two sparked a fight in Wheeler's defensive zone. Both players received two minutes in the sin bin for “spin doctoring.”
In the second, Team Storseth momentarily took the lead when Flames alumnus Ron Stern scored, with a second assist in the game for MP Clarke. Bond evened it up, making it 3-3. Minutes later, Master-Corporal Andy Hartley scored, followed by a goal from Lt.-Col. Carter, bringing the score to 5-3. NHL Hall of Famer Mike Gartner got his first of the night unassisted seven minutes into the second.
Master-Corporal Gregg Carr and Oiler alumnus Rob Brown each scored twice for Team Wheeler, with Oiler alumni Norm Lacombe and Lumley, as well as the Base's Carter, Nickerson, and Evan Burchell getting assists. At the end of the period Col. Wheeler scored, assisted by Carter and Lumley. Team Storseth managed to add one more goal in the second, making it 10-5 for Team Wheeler.
Team Storseth attempted to overcome the deficit with two quick goals early in the third, both from Stiles with assists going to Macoun and MP for Barrie Patrick Brown, making it 10-7. However, four more goals by Team Wheeler sealed the deal for a 14-7 win.
Nickerson got his third point of the night with a second goal five and a half minutes into the third, followed by goals from Carr, Burchell, and Brown.
Gartner did more than play hockey while in Cold Lake, he went on a ride in a CF-18 Hornet. “It was the experience of a lifetime. It was just awesome,” he said.
Coach MP Laurie Hawn for Team Storseth said he came to support his younger colleagues still in their hockey playing days.
“My coaching technique (will) basically consist of, guys get out there, look good, skate hard, don't tear your sweaters, and have fun,” the MP for Edmonton-Centre said. “Old age and cunning will outdo youth and exuberance every time.”
The event raised funds for the Military Family Support Society (MFSS), which runs the Art Smith Aviation Academy on Base.
The MFSS operates on donations and works out of the office of the Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) – the organization that provided funds to help with M-Cpl. Downey's recovery.
Downey said within 24 hours of getting injured, the MFRC stepped in to help and continues to provide support.
Now he works on helping the organization on an ongoing basis.
The school got a big boost from Enbridge directly on game day when the company announced $400,000 in funding.
The money will pay for five years of student transportation.
“We're more than happy to support this incredible endeavour that they've undertaken.
“We feel that it's the least we can do for the community, to support the students, the families of the military for all of the wonderful things they do for the community,” said Cynthia Hansen, vice president of Enbridge's Canadian operations.
Enbridge crosses the Air Weapons Range with its Athabasca pipeline.
“I'm very gratified and thankful that they have come out and said we believe in the community out here, we believe that this school is necessary,” Wheeler said.
The Academy opened in September and has “been going strong ever since.”