Battle of the Badges pits OPP vs Firefighters in charity hockey match
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
It’s on! The Sioux Lookout OPP and the Sioux Lookout Fire Service are facing off on the ice at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 3 at the Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena for what is shaping up to be an epic Battle of the Badges.
OPP Provincial Constable Brett Harrison is spearheading this year’s return of the charity hockey match. As he explained, “So, I’m new. I’ve only been here about five months. I know that they have done games before but from my understanding it’s been a couple of years. I grew up playing hockey and always used it as a way to engage with my community back home, mainly through volunteer coaching. Since arriving in Sioux Lookout I have been looking for a way to give back to the community here, particularly in the best way I know how: hockey. One day, myself and a few colleagues were having an informal conversation with Inspector (Karl) Duewel, who said it would great to see the OPP versus Fire hockey game return. I was immediately excited to organize this.”
The biggest obstacle was scheduling a time that worked for all parties.
“The hardest steps were the first ones we took, having to find a date that worked for our OPP and Fire work schedules, then coordinating with arena availability and minor hockey’s schedules to ensure the date and time did not conflict with anything going on in the community. Once we secured an ice time it was smooth sailing, especially after the Inspector and Fire Chief assisted in getting word out to the community through their t-shirt challenges.”
The response to the news that the game is returning has been positive. As Harrison relates, “Actually, the feedback that I’ve gotten from the community already when I’ve mentioned it to a few people, they’ve said they used to bring their kids to those games, so people are pretty excited. It is going to be a charity game. Originally, this was an opportunity to fundraise for a local cause while bringing people in the community together. The cause was cemented when the community suffered a tragedy this past month with the sudden passing of a young hockey player, Sierra Hoppe. We have been working with Sierra’s family to ensure that proceeds from the charity hockey game are donated in her honour and understand that the donation will be contributed to a bursary being established in Sierra’s name.”
The hope is that given the lifting restrictions and former popularity of the OPP vs Fire Services, the spectator turnout will be good.
“When we originally talked to the arena they were hoping for half capacity. The full capacity would be 500, so they were hoping for half capacity at 250, but now it is looking like we might be able to do full capacity. We currently have the trophy sitting in the constable area right now. I believe that we won the last trophy after a longstanding reign by the fire department. COVID had prevented us from having this, so it was nice that we were able to be back out in the community,” stated Harrison, adding, “Based on my short time here in Sioux Lookout, I think this game is an awesome opportunity to bring the community together. This game will be a lot of fun for all participants and attendees, especially with things being the way they have been for the last two years. It will be a great return to normalcy for the Sioux Lookout community as a whole.”
Robert Popovic, Sioux Lookout’s Emergency Services Manager/Fire Chief feels that it’s high time the trophy came back to Fire Services. As Popovic explained, “We have had (the trophy) previously, but our last game, it was I think maybe four years ago, we had a tournament, which we lost. The last time they (OPP) won, they kept the trophy, so we want that trophy back!”
As part of this year’s game, Sioux Lookout OPP and Sioux Lookout Fire Services have created a t-shirt to be worn by the head of the losing team. Popovic explains, “Karl Duewel (OPP Detachment Commander) upped the ante, as there is a t-shirt (for Popovic to wear) if we lose, so we got a t-shirt for him as well. I guess it’s one of those things where you are trying to get the community back together now that COVID restrictions are lifting, ands it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”
Karl Duewel, Sioux Lookout OPP Detachment Commander, commented, “The Detachment is excited to be coordinating this family-friendly event with our partners at the fire service. I’m happy to see that the organizers have decided to dedicate the donations to such a worthy cause in our community.” Duewel went on to add, “We have all truly missed these opportunities to bring people together with some good-natured rivalry, for a cause that is close to home. I am really proud of the work that Constable Brett Harrison has put into organizing this event and I hope everyone finds some time to come out to and cheer for their favourite badge…. The OPP.”