Good Sport: Sweet child o’ mine

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by Anthony HarrisonAnthony Harrison

The final period of the inaugural Guns ‘n’ Hoses hockey match began as a defensive stalemate. After the cop goalie blocked a penalty shot, the fire department landed another chance after a firefighter slid hard into the wall, to boos and calls from the crowd. They made good on that shot, breaking a tie to make it 4-3.

From that point on, it was the fire department’s game to lose.

A firefighter’s slap shot at the 12-minute mark ricocheted off the top of the goal with a musical “ping!” Another shot on the goal led to a similar sound, but with the extra satisfaction of another point for the fire department. The score was 5-3 now.

Accepting fact, the emcee began calling out raffle winners over the PA system.

“The winner of the $40 Home Depot gift card is 4-4-2… 5-3-4…”

The game turned into a slapstick routine. Fuzz and firefighters both wiped out all over the ice.

“The next puck, signed by the Carolina Hurricanes, goes to 4-4-2… 2-3-1…”

With 68 seconds left to go, the fire department scored the final goal of the game. After that, the cops’ goalie stood at ease, leaning against the goal and watching the scuffles at the other end of the rink.

Honestly, I’d been pulling for the firefighters all along.

No matter the level or play or who you sided with, there’s no denying the Guns ‘n’ Hoses hockey match was a win for a few charitable causes.

“Me and a few other cops play here at the Ice House regularly,” Officer Sean Patterson told me. “The fire department already had a team together, so I said, ‘We should get a PD team together and play for charity,’ and it took off from there.”

Each ticket cost $10, or $5 if you brought canned food. Ticket sales went to Special Olympics of North Carolina; the food would go to Greensboro Urban Ministries’ food bank.

Additionally, proceeds from raffle tickets went to fire Capt. Spencer Nolan’s son Morgan who suffers from neuroblastoma, a cancer affecting the sympathetic nervous system.

The game seemed to be a family affair. I’d venture most of the attendees were kin or friends of the cops or firefighters on the ice.

And there were plenty of cops in the Ice House — cops in plain clothes, even a few cops watching the game in uniform. The place was lousy with cops, a real show of police force.

Civilians lined the barrier around the rink as well as the balcony a floor above. Kids roughhoused and ran around on the concrete, laughing and screeching in their adorably obnoxious way.

One excitable boy yelled during the third period, “Get the puck, Dad!”

Soon after, a young girl in a neon-blue fleece, sweatpants and neon-green sneakers screamed with unexpected volume and fervor, “Let’s go, cops!”

Aside from her unabashed support for the police, she had the right idea — she dressed for the cold.

It was frigid in there. You couldn’t touch the steel railing of the upper deck for fear of losing some skin once you pulled your hand away. Even the wooden barrier around the rink was freezing.

The game was worth braving the chill, though.

The fire department — playing as the away team and sporting black uniforms with flames on the sweater — scored in the opening minutes of the first period. The home-team cops in their patriotic red, white and blue duds answered soon after. But then the firefighters pulled ahead of the defense for an easy goal.

Things tightened up afterwards. When the firefighters would push forward for an attack on the goal, the cops would collapse their defense, making impressive steals and strips. The cop goalie made some impressive blocks and saves. They even scored a penalty shot around the 10-minute mark of the first period.

Still, the police department’s offense just couldn’t finish against the seasoned firefighters. Some cops would make impressive plays on the goal, dribbling and sliding the puck between defenders, but the fire department’s goalie was on point. He even caught the puck on the hardest slap shot of the game.

The fire department clearly had an edge over the ramshackle team arranged by the fuzz.

Still, the cops have time to take the cup from their competition.

“This is pretty much our first practice and game together,” Patterson said. “With everyone’s schedules, it’s hard to get around to practicing.”

Patterson mentioned the possibility of a game held in December to benefit Toys for Tots, and in the future, the cops and firefighters may play up to three times a year.

After the game was over and people began filing out into the dreary evening, a gray-haired, mustachioed man in a red hoodie walked up to Patterson and his wife.

“I just wanted to say, great work,” the man said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed.”