Back home, the members of the Rockford (Ill.) Fire Department are serious about their jobs.
On the pond, not so much.
The fire department rounded up a team for the first time this past February to compete in the annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships in Eagle River, Wis.
“We have the camaraderie at the station and we have camaraderie on the ice,” said RFD team member Matt Zubrick, who is a department paramedic.
RFD had seven players compete at pond hockey, six of whom are on the fire department.
“It’s like your second family because you’re with these guys one out of every three days basically, and you live in the station with them 24-7 and you cook together and eat together,” firefighter Shawn Muszynski said. “They become good friends, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The guys play together in an adult hockey league in Rockford and also compete on another rec league. The team will travel a couple times a year to fire and police tournaments to areas such as Grand Rapids, Mich., and the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa.
The team members went up to the Pond Hockey Championships in 2015 in search of a normal weekend with the guys to hang out and play some hockey.
“Get away from the station life and come out here and have a good time,” Zubrick said.
Zubrick noticed the tournament on USA Hockey’s website and contacted some of his department friends to see if they were interested in playing. The guys jumped at the chance.
“We signed up online and unfortunately we didn’t get in the first time, so we had to wait until somebody backed out two weeks later and they called us,” Zubrick said. “We were kind of hoping it would be on the pond this year, but we’re very happy to be here.”
Zubrick was unsure of which division to sign up his team, so he opted for Bronze 21+. However, all the guys on RFD were over 30 years old.
“So that was the first mistake, and bronze is the second mistake,” said Zubrick, who is 35 and skated for just nine years. “So we learned from it.”
The guys learned the hard way. The team finished 0-3 and was outscored 64-29. Each game it played, RFD picked up nuances of competing on the pond. In the team’s opening game, RFD didn’t keep a goalie in net. However, by the end of the tournament, it kept a player on its end.
The team members, who range in age from 33 to 50, didn’t know what to expect from playing in the tournament.
“We really just went off how we signed up for the brackets and all that,” Muszynski said. “We just wanted to have a good time, and we did. I think the most important thing that we all wanted to do is just play against a bunch of good guys, and that’s what happened. We met a lot of good people here.”
Added Zubrick, “It exceeded everything that we expected. It was a great time.”
The guys are looking forward to another little break next year from the stress of their jobs.
“We’d love to come back next year as long as we get in,” Zubrick said. “It sounds like everybody wants to come back, so it should be a good time.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.