Grand Strand firefighters stay in shape not only in public service through their profession; a group of them also team up on the ice to score other ways to help people.
Myrtle Beach-area firefighters will join the second annual “Fire and Ice Hockey Tournament” – for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of the Eastern Carolinas (910-763-3114 or www.mda.org/office/eastern-carolinas) – Saturday at the Wilmington Ice House, near the northeast corner of North Carolina’s Port City.
Myrtle Beach and Wilmington fire departments face off first, at 9:30 a.m., then the puck will drop at 11:15 a.m. for the Charlotte Fire Department and the N.C. Leatherheads, from the Raleigh area. The respective winners will then play at 5:45 p.m., after the consolation game – like a bronze medal round – for the other two teams, at 4 p.m.
Find the rink at 7201 Ogden Business Lane, east of Wilmington, north from Market Street (U.S. 17) – turn left at the corner with a little white church, and veer right toward the rink, on the left side of the road (910-686-1987 or www.wilmingtonice.com). Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 ages 12-17, and free ages 11 and younger. Details from Blake Cute at 607-591-5549, or email email@example.com.
Cute, who coordinates this Grand Strand team, which he started last year, said its 17 members represent fire departments from the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, as well as Horry County Fire Rescue, Midway Fire Rescue (Pawleys Island), and the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District. All grew up playing ice or roller hockey, and many hail from northern states.
“For many of the guys on our team, the inaugural season was the first time they had skated in 5-10 years,” Cute said, “so there was a lot of dust to be knocked off. ... I was very pleased with how well we came together as a team. ... Everyone has a great time out on the ice, and we all come together for a great cause.”
A lifelong New York Rangers fan, Cute said playing hockey “uses muscles and stamina that are very different to just working out in a gym, or running,” but works in tandem to stay fit for firefighting.
“Hockey,” he said, “is one of those sports that unless you’re doing it every day or at least a few times a week or month, you lose a lot of the skills and techniques. However, as firefighters, we also require the need to be able to perform physically and mentally at a moment’s notice. This career requires a lot of demands on our bodies as well as minds. It is extremely important to not only maintain physical fitness, but also to be mentally fit to be able to endure whatever might arise during our shift and careers.”
The inaugural MDA benefit last year against Wilmington brought in about $1,500 through ticket and T-shirt sales, and raffles, Cute said, and with four teams this year, the goal is $3,000-$5,000.
Although the nearest rinks to the Grand Strand are in Wilmington and North Charleston, the Myrtle Beach players got some practice Aug. 19 with “a small exhibition game against the Charleston Enforcers,” Cute said.
Eager to “to not only grow our team, but public safety ice hockey matches throughout the Carolinas over the next few years,” Cute encouraged the public to follow the team’s home base at www.facebook.com/MBFireRescue/ and check www.firehousehockey.org/home for other similar events and tournaments elsewhere.
Whether skating in a game or sharing a shift at a fire hall, the teammates preparing for, and playing in, this MDA tourney reinforce a familial bond.
“Everyone on our team works a 24 hour shift,” Cute said. “That’s 24 hours of being away from your own family, and helping the communities that we are there for. Although we are away from our own families, we live with anywhere from 1 to 13 other firefighters for 24 hours. Sharing a bunk room and meals, you create a family not only as a shift, but also a station, and those cultures vary from firehouse to firehouse, and department to department.”
Cute said playing this sport in free time cultivates a naturally competitive nature against other firefighting crews, “but at the end of the game, it’s all left out on the ice, and the brotherhood comes back together to celebrate the cause that we are there for.”
Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.