The Milwaukee Admirals will be hosting the annual Battle of the Badges at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Sunday 4 March, 2018. The Firefighters and Law Enforcement go head-to-head in a pair of games, 12:00 PM CST and 1:30 PM CST, with proceeds for attendance all going to a great cause.
Fans have two choices. All tickets purchased through the Firefighters will support Burn Camp and the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin’s efforts to fight cancer. Tickets purchased through the Law Enforcement will support C.O.P.S. Kids Camp and Cops for Kids.
You can view more details courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals Battle of the Badges page. You can then allow me to be your guide for what actually goes into all that happens from one side of the rink and off of it. Prior to the Firefighters first practice as a team I was contacted by Milwaukee area firefighter Tony Scott to see if I would like to help promote this year’s event. In year’s past I only sat back and watched these games and saw it as a special treat that I could finally watch a game without the thought of work. After having taken up Scott’s offer now I have a tremendous amount of respect for the magnitude of what the Firefighters do to prepare themselves as a hockey team all while keeping us here in Wisconsin that much safer.
The first day of practice for the Firefighters took place on the second week of January at The Ponds of Brookfield. With over twenty-five participants from seven different fire departments it was the largest turn out that Scott has assembled since the Battle of the Badges has been in operation.
“You came for a good day,” smiled Mike Lowery. “Because this is by the most guys we’ve ever had. The game is growing.”
The group could have been even larger as a further six firefighters simply couldn’t have made it in on the first day of practice. 33-year old Mike Lowery was tasked with handling the on-ice operation with the Firefighters. The native of Marquette, Michigan has been a firefighter for seven-years. He started with four-years in Milwaukee, a two-year stay in Texas, and has been back in Milwaukee for just over a year.
“I was a volunteer firefighter in the Upper Peninsula. That’s where I was born and raised. I decided I would rather be a volunteer firefighter than a banker at the time,” said Lowery of how he became a firefighter. “So I decided to pursue that career. I took a test for Milwaukee in 2008. The rest is pretty much history.”
Lowery’s practice setup for the Firefights took full use of the team’s allotted hour and a half of rink time at The Ponds of Brookfield. The opening half-hour was used to knock off some rust out of legs that may not have been out on the ice since the Christmas break. The group worked a series of end-to-end skating, passing, and shooting drills in an effort to get all bodies involved a full run of the skills needed to perform at a high level.
“We wanted to run a different scenario,” said Lowery. “We have players of all skill levels. So, we wanted to do some drills ahead of time. What most people don’t realize is that, even when you’re in a scrimmage with guys you know, you don’t get many touches on the puck, you don’t get very many shots on net, you don’t get to make very many passes. When we have an hour and a half of ice-time the first half-hour was going to be skills. So the guys can get more shots, more passes.”
Both Scott and Lowery were quick to fall in love with hockey. Lowery started skating when he was 3-year’s old with the guidance of his family. Scott started skating alongside his brother when he was 10-year’s old and was quick to take in pond hockey. His early influence came through the Milwaukee Admirals where he can still hear the crashing of the boards from games played at Wilson Park.
What followed from that first practice was an open invitation by firefighter Christian Osell to spend an afternoon at Station 12 with himself and Lowery to get a better sense for their day-to-day working operations as firefighters. What I would see that day were very familiar elements between both aspects of the sport of hockey and life at a firehouse: family, teamwork, dedication, and responsibility.
“When you’re at the firehouse it is kind of like being in the locker room at the ice rink,” said Lowery. “Hockey is a pretty fast and physical sport. Anyone that has ever played knows there are situations where you hope that someone has your back. Firefighting is very similar to that. I mean if someone doesn’t have your back then someone doesn’t go home to their family. You want to make sure you surround yourself with guys that are going to take care of you and you reciprocate as well.”
Station 12 is located in the Fourth Battalion out near Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. This station houses Engine 12, Ladder 1, and the Incident Command Post. I had the slightest of evil hopes that I would be there on a day when an alarm would go off to see the reactions of all individuals staffed at Station 12 and it did happen – right after lunch, when everyone’s guard is down, and all reacted with a calm precision. This was a high level team of great individuals who dropped everything immediately to jump straight into danger.
It’s attributes such as this which go beyond being relatable to so many of the athletes I get to cover on a daily basis around the American Hockey League. Yet, when suited up for the rink, all of those attributes make them that much stronger as individuals and as a team.
Osell, who does much of the communications work in organizational effort, continued on to inform me that the Firefighters behind the Battle of the Badges weren’t just competing in Milwaukee – they were heading to Nashville. Our Milwaukee FirefIghters will be traveling to take part in the 2018 Heroes Cup Tournament. The event starts on Friday February 23rd and runs through the weekend and on to Sunday February 25th at the Ford Ice Center and will provide ways to giveback to the numerous firefighters coming in from across North America. And, yes, the winner of the tournament will hoist the Heroes Cup.
What the 2018 Heroes Cup Tournament in Nashville is for the likes of the Milwaukee Firefighters is a week’s head start to see high level action against multiple Fire Departments a week ahead of the Battle of the Badges takes place in Milwaukee. The game is going to be fast, energetic, and skillful. And -once again- the road of Nashville goes through Milwaukee. It’s a level of play in which those involved hope to see a great fan turnout -not just because of the games played themselves- but because of the charitable nature that comes with the day’s event.
“Ultimately we’d love to see the entire rink sold out,” said Lowery. “Not just because we would love to play in front of a bunch of people, friends and family, but it also goes to a good cause. Being that we’re playing for a charity it is awesome to give back to the community.”
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