WILDFIRE ON ICE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
A fundraiser for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation
Held every January in Walker, Minnesota

On January 16th, 2016, the Minnesota Wildland Firefighting Community descended on Walker, MN for the 5th Annual Fire on Ice Hockey Tournament.  Hundreds of agency employees, friends and family members came together to have fun, play hockey, promote fire prevention, most importantly, to raise money for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation; https://wffoundation.org/.  The Wildland Firefighter Foundation came together as a group of volunteers in 1994, shortly after the Storm King tragedy.  Its main focus "is to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families."  Based out of Boise, ID, the Foundation supports in ways insurance and worker's compensation cannot.  Additionally, it provides funds to memorialize fallen firefighters.

Four agency teams were involved in tournament play;

  1. MNICS; Captain Mike Mackey – Chippewa NF, Blackduck RD
  2. Dept. of Interior; Captain Seth Grimm – USFWS, Detroit Lakes
  3. Superior NF; Co-captains Mike Mansson – Gunflint RD, and Vance Hazelton – Washburn RD of the Chequemegon NF.
  4. Dept. of Natural Resources; Co-captains Dan Wiley – Cass Lake, and Pat Wherley – Cloquet

Teams were made up of agency folks spread out across the state, with the stipulation that they’re currently involved in fire or have had involvement in fire at some time in their career.  The MNICS team is a spattering of talent from all agencies, primarily folks from the Chippewa NF and the MNDNR.  Teams were guaranteed 2 games, with the winners of the first set of games going to the championship, and the runners-up chasing the coveted "toilet bowl".  Between the sets of games, families were able to join Smokey on the ice, which was an especially big hit with the kids.  In the end, the MNICS team topped the Superior NF team to win the championship title. MNICS goalie, Jacob Beauregard – Homeland Security, was quite a force to be reckoned with, and only let in a few goals throughout the entire tournament.  Teams DOI and DNR battled for 3rd place, with team DOI winning the bout and leaving team DNR with the not-so-lucky last place toilet bowl trophy, a first for team DNR.  Despite who won or lost, all games were relatively close and everyone had a great time.  Paul Olson, DNR team member and future AARP Award candidate, said it best in the locker room after suffering defeat to the MNICS team in game 1; "Things are only better when we work together”, meaning that the MNICS team was the better team with the cooperation of folks from all agencies playing on the team. 

At the end of the day, players, fans, and families gathered at the Walker American Legion to feast on a taco bar, take part in a silent auction, raffle, MVP player awards, and most importantly for the camaraderie and fellowship of agency partners, friends, and family.  Vance Hazelton did an outstanding job at MC’ing the banquet and doling out the many prizes that were donated to the event and silent auction.  The tournament MVP award went to Jerry Hoffman – Midewin Hotshots (playing for Superior NF), who was tremendous between the pipes, particularly due to the fact that he hadn’t put on the goalie pads in over 10 years.  His award granted him the coveted interagency green twill jacket and a small trophy, which will travel with him until next year's event.  MNICS goaltender Jake Beauregard was granted the baby blue suede MVP runner's up jacket.  Jake has led team MNICS to 2 championship wins in the last 3 years, and had received the MVP award in 2015.  Rightfully so, Jerry and Jake are only a few of the players that will actually fit into the child-sized coats used for the MVP awards.  Retired Superior NF Gunflint Ranger District FMO Kurt “Polar Bear” Shierenbech presented his hand-made diamond willow cane as the “AARP Award”, to retired DNR Forester Mike Wurst, for being the eldest player in the tournament (over 60).  This is the first time the AARP award has been awarded.  Despite Mike’s age, he’s got more energy than most and contributes quite a lot to the DNR team and tournament comradery as a whole.  Greg Peterson, BIA MN Agency – Bemidji, was a close second to Mike.  Lastly, a recently retired Tom Fasteland, MIFC Coordinator, was honored for his contributions to the MN wildfire community, with a gift of hunting apparel from all his peers and interagency partners.

All proceeds from the weekend went to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.  After the dust settled on Walker, the single day total donation amount topped $10,000!  The overall amount should grow to about $12,000 with continued donations and sales of apparel.

We'd like to thank all of the volunteers and sponsors who provided their services and generous donations, and especially the folks who poured their hearts and souls into the event; Rebekah Luedtke, Ernie Schmitt, Dan Wiley, Ryan Anderson, Jeff Jackson, Elena Teich, Mike and Melanie Rice, Steve Teeter, Jeb Backe, Dan Carroll, Steve Frick, Mike Mackey, Seth Grimm, Vance Hazelton, Ben and Katie Lang, and many others.

We couldn't do it without the cooperation and support of the Walker Youth Hockey Association, who lets us take over their ice for a weekend, and provides us with some seasoned volunteers to help the event run smoothly. A special thank you to Mitch Loomis, who volunteers his time as a referree, and Leslie and Byron Sagen who assisted in concessions and on the ice.

      • 2016 Champions:  Team MNICS
      • 2016 Toilet Bowl “somebody has to lose so others can win” not-so Champs: Team DNR
      • Tournament MVP:  Jerry Hoffman – Midewin Hotshots.  Goalie for team Superior NF.  Was outstanding in the net for the Superior NF after not having put on the pads for over 10 years.
      • MVP Runner-up:  Jake Beauregard – Homeland Security and Emerg. Mgmt.  Goalie for team MNICS.  As always, does a wonderful job of stopping the pucks.  Has helped team MNICS to 2 championships in the last 3 years.
      • AARP Award (Players over 60): Mike Wurst – Air Attack 6 / Retired DNR Forester-Kabetogama.  Runner-up – Greg Peterson, BIA MN Agency - Bemidji
      • Attendance:  250-300
      • Raffle Tickets Sold:  700
      • Amount raised for the WFF:  ~$8,100
DETAILS FOR 2017 EVENT:
Walker Area Community Center – Tentative date; January 14th (Open Hockey on Friday night, January 13th). 
More details to come!
Looking for photos from previous years? 2015 Photos | 2014 Photos
Lake Jeannette CCC Hockey Team- 1930's
 
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