GOFOs, lead by Gen. Lawson, Triumph Over the Esprit de Corps Commandos

By Newell Durnbrooke

It may be billed as a fun charity fundraising hockey game, but for the players involved it is a battle on ice.

In the previous two outings the Esprit de Corps Commandos handily beat the General Officers and Flag Officers (GOFOs) 5:1 and 7:5. At those post-game receptions, the GOFOs players had put on a brave face and reminded everyone that the real winner was the Military Family Resource Centre — National Capital Region (MFRC-NCR) — the first two Commando Challenges raised over $7,500 for this worthy cause.

However, martial pride was simmering below the surface and the GOFOs had no intention of losing the third game. To ensure victory, the GOFOs’ general manager, Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier, made a few last-minute trades and brought in two former NHL players — Doug Smith and John Chabot — as ringers. Couturier also enlisted Chief Petty Officer (First Class) Marc Bertrand as the starting goalie, and lowered the draft criteria one rank level to bring aboard centre Colonel Jim Kile.

In other words, like a true competitor, Couturier did everything he could to stack the GOFOs’ roster. His intentions were honourable in that this was to be General Tom Lawson’s final game as GOFOs captain before he retires as Chief of Defence Staff on July 17.

Adding an international flavour to this year’s Commando Challenge, both the GOFOs and Commandos added some members of the foreign military attaché hockey team, which is known as the Lame Ducks. Playing as GOFOs were Colonel Serkan Sevim from Turkey and Captain(N) Jorge Parga from Chile. Dressed as Commandos were Lieutenant-Colonel Ralf Heimrich from Germany, Colonel Jang Min Choi of South Korea, and backup goaltender Senior Colonel Zhu Haitao of China.

The game took place in the afternoon of June 19 at the Minto Sports Centre arena (University of Ottawa complex). For the second year in a row, radio talk-show host Steve Madely was on hand to commentate with masterful ease throughout the game.

A rowdy crowd of close to 250 were on hand to watch Emily Reedman drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between General Lawson and Esprit de Corps publisher Scott Taylor. Reedman is the 17-year-old daughter of Captain Ivan Reedman, who passed away last February. The MFRC-NCR has been playing an active role in assisting the Reedman family. The magnificent Canadian Military Wives Choir sang the national anthem, and then the puck dropped for real.

The first period was played at a furious pace, with both goaltenders putting on an incredible display of talent. The Commandos struck first and then quickly buried a second goal in the dying seconds of the period. The second period was a different story as the GOFOs managed to find a hole in the Great Wall of China, aka Senior Colonel Zhu. Once they found that hole, they powered through it, scoring a whirlwind five goals in less than 10 minutes. There was discussion on the Commandos’ bench about pulling Zhu, but he restored everyone’s faith by shutting down the GOFOs for the remaining half of the period.

Inspired by Zhu’s turnaround, the Commandos scored again to make it 5:3 heading into the third and final period. Despite a desperate surge, a few GOFOs penalties, and pulling the goalie to put on an extra attacker, the Commandos could not close the gap. The final score was 7:3 in favour of the GOFOs. The total money raised this year for MFRC-NCR was over $7,500. As for the loss, Scott Taylor shrugged it off. “In the old Rocky boxing movies, he couldn’t win every fight. Once in a while he had to take a beating,” said Taylor. “This was our beating.”

Photographs by Richard Lawrence. You can view more here.