By James G. Scott
On September 7, a representative squad of Ottawa’s Esprit de Corps Commandos hockey team made a second annual trek to Halifax to face a select Royal Canadian Navy team in a charity hockey game. Inappropriately titled Clash of the Titans, the game was instead an entertaining hockey clinic put on by the RCN Mariners.
As in 2016, the Commandos made their way to the event as a result of attending DEFSEC Atlantic 2017. Thanks to the generosity and excellent service of VIA Rail Canada’s The Ocean route, numerous Commandos and their malodorous hockey bags were transported the 1,500 kilometres from Ottawa to Halifax and back.
The 90-year-old Halifax Forum provided the facilities while the RCN’s Stadacona Band got set to shake the rafters. The band not only entertained fans with a rollicking rendition of the classic Hockey Night in Canada theme, but also marked each goal with a select anthem: Heart of Oak for Navy goals, The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) for Commandos scores. Unfortunately, Vader got more action on the Death Star than in the Forum this night.
Local talk show host Rick Howe, from Halifax’s News 95.7, handled player introductions and announcements for the evening. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, new Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) Commander RAdm Chris Baines, and former MP Peter Stoffer were on hand to drop the ceremonial puck along with a Colour Guard from 1 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Nelson.
Though Commandos captain Tony Young won the opening face-off, it was the last he would see of the puck for long stretches. The Mariners controlled the play for the better part of the 50-minute game. Led by former major junior hockey player Triston Manson’s hat trick, the Navy team out-skated and out-shot the depleted Commandos. Local Commandos ‘call-up’ goalie Kevin Kennedy played heroically while seeing more rubber than a tire factory. Fellow Haligonians Rob Miller and Sean Lewis also did their best, but the final outcome of 6-3 Mariners was never in doubt. Esprit de Corps’ own Ryan Lediett potted one marker and was named Commandos Player of the Game. (Manson received Mariners Player of the Game but their whole line-up had a shot at the honours.)
The purpose of any charity event is to raise support for the beneficiary, in this case the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre (H&R MFRC), and to raise good cheer among spectators and participants. In the end, that mission was accomplished with a $4,400 donation to the Centre. DEFSEC Executive Director Colin Stephenson, who also happened to be a hard-working Commandos defenceman that night, showed his big heart and sportsmanship by rounding up the night’s donation to $5,000.
The lively post-game reception was sponsored by Airbus Defence and Space Canada. (Airbus president and Commandos left wing Simon Jacques played a strong game despite missing a few good chances!) The ‘good cheer’ factor was further elevated by excellent beers courtesy of the Good Robot Brewing Company. To top off the festive atmosphere, the amazing Boarding Party, a subsection of the Stadacona Band, performed world-class versions of Billy Joel, Chicago and other artists during their rock/pop/R&B sets.
As always, when a successful event with many moving parts comes together, there are many people to thank. Esprit de Corps is very grateful for the assistance and support from Pratt and Whitney, Babcock Canada, Irving Shipbuilding, NovAtel, Ultra Electronics, the School of Continuing Studies at York University, BMT Fleet Technology and David Pratt and Associates. (Mr. Pratt, as well as being a former MP, is a ferociously competitive Commandos forward.)
Finally, congratulations to the RCN Mariners and to the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre who, most importantly of all, came out big winners as they work tirelessly to support our men and women in uniform and their families.