Sometimes in sports, teammates struggle to find that bond, that chemistry. With these guys, that bond has always been there.
Nanaimo Fire Hockey left this week for New York City to enter the 2011 World Police and Fire Games.
The team is built around a core of 17 Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters, said Shelby Nickel, a veteran player.
“We all work together in such a tight department and we all hang out after work and get to play hockey as a team,” said Nickel. “It’s an amazing bond that we have. It’s a brotherhood, is what it is. We would do anything for each other and that transfers onto the ice.”
Nanaimo Fire Hockey skated in the 2009 World Police and Fire Games in Vancouver. They finished in the middle of the pack in their division, said Nickel, and had such a positive experience that they immediately started fundraising and working toward this year’s Games.
He said Vancouver put on an “amazing, amazing event”, and anticipates these Games in New York will be at another level as that city is thinking about the 10 years that have passed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“Any reason to go down to New York in remembrance of 9-11 is huge. Anybody would jump at the chance to do that,” said Lt. Don Baxter, an alternate captain on the Fire Hockey team.
The 11-day event is expected to attract 15,000 athletes from 70 countries, all of them emergency services workers.
Players said the opening ceremonies, tomorrow (Aug. 26) at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, will be emotional.
“I don’t think there’ll be a dry eye in the house, I really don’t,” Baxter said. “We go through so much together and there’s such a common bond between everybody in the profession that it’s going to be touching.”
As for the hockey, it’s “crazy competitive”, Baxter said.
“It’s a couple steps above us but we do our best.”
Nanaimo is in a pool that includes a team from Finland. Nickel said the games against foreign teams can be a clash of styles, but said that sometimes makes for some great games.
“It’s really fast, really competitive. Everybody wants to win and put out their best…” he said. “It’s very important for us [to win]. We’ve been training really hard and everyone here is on the same page – we want to come back with a gold medal.”
ICE CHIPS … Nanaimo Fire Hockey isn’t looking for financial support, but it hopes the city might get behind the Nanaimo Eagles adaptive hockey team. The co-ed team, made up of players with developmental disabilities, is fundraising for a tournament next spring in Penticton. “They’re fellow hockey players and they love the game of hockey,” Nickel said. “Sometimes they have a little bit of struggle to get games and travel.” To help out the Eagles, please call Andy at 250-619-5545 or Colin at 250-756-2771.