On Feb. 27, dozens of Minnesota and Wisconsin paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and police officers will lace up their skates, grab their hockey sticks and spend the day battling for glory and a good cause. The Second Annual Public Safety Hockey Challenge “Checking for CF,” is the largest public service hockey tournament in Minnesota, with 12 teams competing while they raise money and awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF).
Starting from Scratch
The original idea for a public safety hockey tournament came from Andy Peter, a paramedic with Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis. Peter was looking for a way to help the CFF after his newborn niece was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Although he wasn’t a hockey player himself, he knew that the Minneapolis area was full of hockey enthusiasts, as well as former and current players. A tournament seemed like a natural fundraiser—but first he had to find some public safety teams.
“I cold-called everyone I knew, and then every time I was on a call I’d ask the firefighters or police, ‘Do you play hockey?’” Peter recalls. “If the answer was ‘yes,’ I’d say, ‘we have to talk later.’” Peter managed to enlist eight teams from local public safety services for the first tournament, including HCMC’s own Hennepin Generals.
This year, the tournament has expanded to 12 teams, with the possibility of a few more late entries. Teams are coming from as far away as Duluth and Superior, Wisc. “It’s a double-elimination tournament, with continuous play all day,” explains Peter. The tournament will take place on two rinks at Schwan’s Ice Arena in Blaine, Minn.
“In public safety, we have very good-natured competition between services,” says Peter. “Last year, we had about 500 people come throughout the day—family, friends and fellow department members. It’s free to attend, but we have a couple of contests you can pay to participate in, merchandise for sale, and other fundraisers.”
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation–Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter is delighted with the tournament. Special Events Specialist Stephanie Malloy says that when Peter first contacted her with the idea, “Our initial reaction was, ‘Absolutely yes.’ Minnesota’s favorite sport is hockey, so it was natural to add that to our roster of fundraising events.”
The first tournament was considered a huge success. “It was amazing,” says Malloy. “After expenses were paid, they raised over $10,000—that’s incredible for any first-time grass-roots effort.” And this year, with more teams and more seasoned fundraisers playing, Malloy estimates a $25,000 profit. That’s a real achievement for Andy and all the participants—who not only play in the tournament, but do all the fundraising as well.”
She adds, “We’re really humbled by the enthusiasm of the four new teams.”
Each team is asked to contribute $1,500 to participate, and most go above and beyond that. The CFF offers an online fundraising tool so individual players can create a web page requesting donations. In addition, Malloy says, “some teams also hold their own fundraising events.” For example, HCMC held a Beer Bash to raise money. The bash was held at the 1029 Bar in Minneapolis, a popular hangout for police officers, EMS providers and firefighters. The bar donated the beer, and the Generals hosted the bash and sold beers to raise funds.
“They’re very creative with their ideas for collecting funds,” Malloy says.
The Hennepin Generals are selling merchandise to raise the majority of their donations this year, including hundreds of T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball hats. He says they’re even having a sale on winter hats. “The [HCMC] hospital employees have really supported us by buying all that stuff—I think we’ve raised a $3,000 profit by now. And we raised another $1,000 with our Beer Bash,” Peter says.
Scott McCafferty, a police officer/paramedic with the city of Woodbury, plays on the Woodbury Warriors. He says that the team raised around $1,700 by word of mouth alone for last year’s tournament. “This year we’re extending our efforts, and we want to surpass that,” he says.
McCafferty is also working on boosting the number of attendees. “I sent out invitations to matches more than requests for donations. I’ve encouraged everyone in our department to come to the tournament, and this year my brother-in-law is bringing his entire family down from International Falls. That’s about a four-hour drive, so that’s really important to me.”
Calling All Hockey Teams
Peter’s next goal is to expand the tournament beyond Minnesota. “We really want to turn this into a national event,” he explains. “A lot of the big cities already have a public safety hockey team—New York, Boston, D.C.—and we’d love to bring people here to play.”
If you have a public safety hockey team—or want to create one—or are interested in playing in the 2012 tournament, e-mail the Hennepin Generals via their website, www.hennepingenerals.org.
And anyone interested in making a donation to the CFF can do that at www.cff.org.