by Jim Charshafian || AHL On The Beat Archive
Physical toughness. Determination. Perseverance through adversity.
These are the traits that define what it means to be a hockey player.
They are also the traits that define a much more dangerous job, protecting and serving a community as a police officer or a firefighter.
On Dec. 10, the San Antonio Rampage will honor local firefighters and police officers with a “Salute to the Badges Night” when they play host to the Peoria Rivermen at the AT&T Center.
The Rampage, who will cap the occasion by auctioning off themed jerseys following the game, have many players who acknowledge that while playing professional hockey may garner more attention, their job requirements pale in comparison to what police officers and firefighters face on a daily basis.
“A lot of people look up to us as hockey players,” said San Antonio forward Scott Timmins, “but the true heroes are the guys that put their lives on the line at any given minute of the day. You wake up and any day could be your last. You never know what’s going to happen out there.”
Left wing Tim Kennedy, who plans to become a police officer himself when he retires from hockey, grew up with law enforcement predominantly featured in his family. Both his father (20 years) and grandfather (35 years) served as police officers in the Buffalo community.
“When you’re a kid growing up and your dad is a cop, it’s pretty cool riding in the police car with him but then you get older and you realize what the job entails,” Kennedy said. “You get nervous and you’re not sure if your dad is going to come home the next morning. It’s pretty scary when you think about that because they put their life on the line some nights.”
The Rampage players agree that while their lives are not at risk like police officers and firefighters, there is a common theme of brotherhood that the jobs share.
“I consider myself a bit of a policeman out there for our guys for sure,” said San Antonio captain Nolan Yonkman. “If anybody messes around with one of us, we take care of each other.”
Rampage center Wacey Rabbit, who like Kennedy, plans on pursuing a career as a police officer when he is finished with hockey, believes there are characteristics of the occupations that are similar.
“When you’re out there with 20 other guys and something happens to one of your teammates you come to their aid,” he said. “Those are your brothers and as a police officer or a firefighter you have a band of brothers as well. It’s the same thing, you’re working as part of a team and trying to achieve the same goal.”
“You are a family,” said Timmins, “and at the end of the day you’ll go to battle for anyone out there.”
Forward Joe Devin, whose father is still an active member of the Boston Police Department after 28 years on the job, tries not to think of the dangers that his dad faces.
“You’d go crazy if you always thought about it,” said Devin. “My father is pretty smart and knows to pick his spots but I’m proud of him and he’s worked very, very hard. It’s a demanding job and the hours are crazy. Sometimes my father comes home at two in the morning, sleeps for a few hours, and heads back out at six.”
Leading up to the Salute to the Badges event, the Rampage will participate in a firefighting training event at a fire station in San Antonio.
“I am excited,” said Yonkman. “I’ve been through some general police training with guns but other than firing on a range and working with handcuffs, I haven’t really done much. In junior hockey we did some training with different hand techniques and taking down criminals and I’m excited to do something with the firefighters.”
On Dec. 10, the Rampage will honor the local community heroes on the ice and wear specially themed jerseys that will be auctioned off immediately following the game in which proceeds will benefit the Little Fighter Foundation.
“Being a police officer or a firefighter, you take pride in being a part of that fraternity and it’s the same on the ice,” said Devin. “When the time comes, you protect each other. Most of the guys in here will do anything for their teammates.”