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Law enforcement hockey teams unite with goal of helping others

Range Lawmen’s Troy Scott of Grand Rapids (12) shoots the puck on goal near goaltender Nick Melser of South Side Law Enforcement during the Lake Superior Lawmen Hockey Classic at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center on Saturday afternoon, March 15, 2014. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. (Clint Austin / / 3
Kevin Christensen of Duluth (right) with Range Lawmen controls the puck near John Andrews of South Side Law Enforcement during the Lake Superior Lawmen Hockey Classic in Duluth on Saturday, March 15, 2014. (Clint Austin / / 3
Range Lawmen regroup between periods during the Lake Superior Lawmen Hockey Classic at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center on Saturday afternoon, March 15, 2014.They were raising money for Courage Kenny rehabilitation institute. (Clint Austin / / 3

As they watched their Lake Superior Lawmen teammates play hockey on Friday, Matt McShane turned to Justin Pederson.

“This is hard to sit here and watch,” McShane said.

Like so many men who grew up in the Northland, McShane and Pederson have played hockey pretty much all of their lives. But this weekend, injuries forced McShane, 39, and Pederson, 37, to sit out the Lake Superior Lawmen Hockey Classic and leave the ice time to their 15 colleagues.

McShane and Pederson are among a group who formed their team about a decade ago. They play in a men’s league locally and travel to play in tournaments with similar groups. This year, they’ve been to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Orlando, Fla.

This was the eighth year they’ve hosted their own tournament as a fundraiser for a local charity. This year, like last year, it’s going to Courage Kenny Northland, formerly known as Courage Center Duluth. They raised about $10,000 last year and hoped to exceed that this time around, Pederson said.

The Friday-Saturday tournament took place at both of the Duluth Heritage Sports Center’s arenas and at SAHA Arena in Superior.

The two men were interviewed on Saturday at the Heritage Center as their colleagues prepared for their third and final game of the tournament.

There would be a championship game later, but the Lake Superior Lawmen wouldn’t be participating.

“No, not this year,” Pederson said with a rueful chuckle. “We lost our second game yesterday.”

The teams came from as far away as Red Lake, Thunder Bay, and Grand Forks, N.D. Team members share a similar type of work — law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, military — and a love of hockey.

Pederson is in the information assurance office for the 148th Fighter Wing; McShane is a Duluth police officer in violent crimes. The group also has law enforcement personnel from Proctor and Hermantown.

Their work in public service gives them a common bond, McShane said.

“We all have competitive spirits, so we can be very competitive out there, but we all come from the same place as far as work goes,” he said.

The relationship with Courage Kenny Northland seemed like a good fit, the men said. Since it was founded in 1979, the nonprofit has provided opportunities to participate in sports and recreational activities for kids and adults with physical disabilities and vision loss, as well as for youth with autism spectrum diagnoses.

Some of the Lake Superior Lawmen have volunteered for Courage Kenny Northland, particularly in its Shoot for Fun trap-shooting benefit.

“The money raised stays right here in Duluth,” McShane said. “We’re trying to give the kids as much help as we can to be able to do the things that we can do and may take for granted.”

Despite the merger last June with Allina Health’s Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, all of the money raised in the hockey tournament will stay in the Northland, said Eric Larson. The longtime program manager for Courage Center Duluth, Larson now supervises sports and recreation programs in both Duluth and the Twin Cities. But he still is based in Duluth.

The $10,000 raised last year represented about 4.5 percent of Courage Kenny Northland’s budget, Larson said.

The support is meaningful, he said.

“I think it just symbolizes the fact that our program is respected in the community,” Larson said. “It’s money that we’ll be able to do things with that we might not otherwise be able to do.”