Firefighters ready to face off against RCMP

Annual Battle of the Badges match takes place at Hope Arena Feb. 9

Hope fire chief Tom DeSorcy and Hope RCMP Staff Sgt. Suki Manj invite hockey fans to the annual Battle of the Badges game at 3 p.m. on Feb. 9. Funds raised will go to Cops for Cancer.

On Feb. 9, the RCMP and Hope firefighters will be battling on the ice for local hockey supremacy. It’s year six of the annual clash — and after alternating wins and losses in the first three games, the firefighters gave the cops consecutive wins in the last two years.

It’s time for the smoke-eaters to extinguish their foes and tie the series at three apiece. Whatever the outcome, the kids helped by the Cops for Cancer program will be the big winners.

“It’s all fun — but the guys take it seriously,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Suki Manj on Monday. Manj grew up playing goalie in Duncan on Vancouver Island, but in this game he’ll be playing center.

Hope fire chief Tom DeSorcy started playing hockey in Hope when the rink first opened in 1976 and eventually worked his way up to Zamboni driver… but he’ll be out of town when his comrades hit the ice.

“It’s a full game: three 20-minute stop-time periods,” said DeSorcy, “and the players really feel it.”

George Johnston, who had a full career with the RCMP, has now switched allegiances to the local fire department, where he works as a volunteer. He is a key organizer for the annual event, which is dubbed as the Tyler Wells Cup — named after a local teen who died of cancer at the age of 13. Tyler’s uncle, Richie Wells, often plays for the firefighters’ team.

“An RCMP member, Jeff Wilson, was riding for Cops for Cancer that first year and he was riding for Tyler before he passed away,” recalled Johnston. “I was a volunteer fireman and we thought we could organize a game as a fundraiser.”

In addition to local firefighters, Johnston has made a few calls to bring in down-river talent. Aaron Saito, who played his minor hockey in Hope will be bringing a few of his Richmond Fire Department friends along.

“I’m sure the cops will be bringing in their designated ringers,” added Johnston. “They’ve got a much bigger talent pool to draw on than I do.

“We need to win one but those guys aren’t just going to sit back and let us have it.

“For goalie, we have the District of Hope’s CAO, John Fortoloczky. He’s ex-military and he’s played all over the world,” said Johnston.

Johnston and his wife Susan will soon be vacationing in Cuba and will be getting back to town the day before the game. Johnston said he has his volunteer staff ready to go.

“We’ve got Denise Pascucci, who has been our scorekeeper in every game and her husband Pas will be helping with the music and announcements. Ebi Fazzari will be back as head referee and Yana Bergen will be singing O Canada.”

Ticket prices remain the same as in past years: $20 for a family of four, $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and school-aged minors. Children aged five and under are free.

Tickets are available at the Hope RCMP detachment, district hall, Romano’s, Lordco and Sixth Avenue Sports. Many of the local firefighters have access to tickets as well.

There will also be 50/50 and prize draws at the game. Puck drop is at 3 p.m.

* * * *

This weekend, the bantam C Wildcats take over the Hope Arena for their annual tournament. Check in at the rink on Friday to see the schedule for the local team’s games in this eight-team event. Admission is free.

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