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Brotherly rivalry, charity to be on display at annual WFD and WPD hockey game

The 7th annual Guns and Hoses charity hockey game pits the city's firefighters and police officers against each other on the rink for a night of rivalry and support of local charity ACCESS of Wilmington.

The Wilmington Fire Department will attempt to steal the trophy from the Wilmington Police Department – and break an all-time series tie of 3-3. Pictured, a WFD jersey hangs on a locker at WFD's Station 3 on New Cinema Drive. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
The Wilmington Fire Department will attempt to steal the trophy from the Wilmington Police Department – and break an all-time series tie of 3-3. Pictured, a WFD jersey hangs on a locker at WFD’s Station 3 on New Cinema Drive. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — Firefighter Allen Lewis grew up playing pond hockey in Vermont. Like many of his teammates who came to Wilmington from the Northeast, he knows how to handle a puck, and he’s ready to put on a show for the city.

“There’s always that brotherhood rivalry between the Police and the Fire, and it’s just a good way to show the community that there’s always a rivalry, but we’re all here fightin’ for the same cause. And we’re gonna give you the best show we can,” Lewis said.

He then made a bold prediction.

“The police are gonna lose the trophy back to the fire department where it rightfully belongs,” Lewis said.

Seven years ago Wilmington police officer Pete Schwartz sat down with firefighter Andy Comer. They wanted to introduce a new sport to the area that could bring together police officers, firefighters, and community members while helping local charities.

Both were from the Northeast, and because Wilmington had one of the few ice rinks between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville, they settled on hockey. Each wanted to bring a sport to the south that not many were exposed to.

This year the hosting of the 7th annual Guns and Hoses charity game, which will be held at the Wilmington Ice House in Ogden on March 16, fell to the firefighters. During the months after Hurricane Florence though, they weren’t certain it would take place.

“But we definitely felt like we had to keep it going, this year in particular after the hurricane – and with the series tied three-three,” Lewis said.

The past three years have seen momentum shift to the police. In 2016 a tied game went to a shootout, won by the firefighters, but the next year was a “blowout” by the cops.

“I think maybe they practiced a whole lot more than us,” Lewis said.

Then last year a police officer made a shot on a breakaway, in the final seconds of a tied game, Lewis recalled with frustration.

ACCESS of Wilmington

The underlying purpose of the annual event, according to Lewis, is to bring people together to support a charity that the city’s first responders believe in. The past six years, he said, the game has raised roughly $40,000 for charities like Wounded Warrior Project, the Jaycee Burn Center in Raleigh, the Carousel Center of Wilmington for abused children, and this year, ACCESS of Wilmington — a program for kids, adults, and veterans with disabilities. 

Allen said it was his wife, an elementary teacher in Brunswick County who works with special needs students, who led him to choose ACCESS as this year’s charity.

“What better way to bring a sporting event that involves first responders giving back to the community, giving to a charity that also helps with giving back to the community,” Allen said.

ACCESS Executive Director Hayley Sink said the organization was honored to be chosen by the heroes of the city’s fire and police departments. 

“It means so much as it is truly heroes helping heroes,” Sink said. “The children, adults, and veterans of ACCESS overcome unimaginable obstacles every day, and the support of the WFD and WPD will make the dream of playing baseball, shooting archery, or simply attending a group exercise class a reality.” 

ACCESS provides accessible recreation and sports programs for children, adults, and veterans living with disabilities, Sink said. All proceeds from the game will to go the organization’s Miracle League, an accessible baseball league that uses a customized, rubberized surface field for players with disabilities.

Fighting with the gloves on

Beyond the community and charity aspects of the game, however, is a legitimate rivalry. And because it’s hockey, a sport known for fights and toothless grins, Lewis said it can get a bit rough.

“In the spirit of the game, you know what, sometimes your blood gets boiling, you get caught up in the moment, and next thing you know you’re shoving into a police officer and another firefighter,” Lewis said. “Just smashing into another person regardless of their job title – it’s always fun.”

He says there’s been a few legitimate fights over the years, but when they happen players keep their gloves and helmets on, softening the blows.

“You’ll be punching on somebody, and they’ll be punching back at you, and you really won’t feel a whole lot of it. It’s in the good spirit of hockey. When they get done they’ll get up, hug it out, shake hands, then go spend some time in the penalty box,” Lewis said.

After the game both teams will get together at a favorite Ogden drinking establishment, maybe the Liberty Tavern or the Ogden Tap Room, for a bit of camaraderie.

“Just like brothers,” Lewis said. “They’ll wrestle in the living room and go share a coke on the back porch.”

Details

  • What: 7th Annual Guns and Hoses Charity Game
  • When: Saturday, March 16, 2019 (doors open at 4 p.m., puck drops at 4:30)
  • Where: Wilmington Ice House (7201 Ogden Business Ln.)
  • Tickets: $10 ($5 for kids 10-and-under); can be picked up at WPD Headquarters (615 Bess St.), Wilmington Fire Departments, Wilmington Ice House (7201 Ogden Business Ln.), and ACCESS of Wilmington (2021 Corporate Dr., Suite B).
  • Pre-Game Party: The WFD is currently planning a pregame party at Wilmington Brewing Company on Friday, March 15.

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