Lawmen play hockey for charity
The Duluth Heritage Sports Center lobby was filled with police officers, state troopers, firefighters, deputy sheriffs and Air National Guard members Friday morning. However, it was impossible to tell which were which, because all were out of uni...
The Duluth Heritage Sports Center lobby was filled with police officers, state troopers, firefighters, deputy sheriffs and Air National Guard members Friday morning. However, it was impossible to tell which were which, because all were out of uniform and carrying hockey equipment.
The ninth annual Lake Superior Lawmen Hockey Classic ran Friday and Saturday, March 20-21. The tournament is hosted by the Duluth-based Lake Superior Lawmen to raise money for Courage Kenny Northland.
"Hockey is something we all did growing up. It's great to be able to raise money for a charity by doing something we all love," said Justin Pederson, an information assurance officer in the 148th Fighter Wing and Lake Superior Lawmen forward player.
Pederson has been playing in the tournament for nine years. He grew up in West Duluth and played hockey at the Irving Community Club throughout all of his teen years.
"A large portion of the team played for West Duluth, Central and East Duluth. It's fun to play together," he said while taping the end of his hockey stick.
The tournament consists of 24 teams from across Minnesota, North Dakota and Thunder Bay, Canada. Pederson says that Thunder Bay sends down six teams to compete each year.
"They always bring auction items for us to raise money for our charity. We travel up there in January for their tournament as well. So we share the fundraising and have fun," Pederson said.
The tournament is split into three divisions, red, white and blue, based on the level of competition.
Courage Kenny Northland provides year-round adaptive sports and recreation programs to youth and adults with physical disabilities and vision loss, as well as youth with autism spectrum diagnoses. The fundraising mostly comes from the hockey banquet and silent auction Saturday evening, but also from raffle tickets sold throughout the tournament. Last year the tournament raised $9,800. This year's amount is not yet finalized, but estimated at around $9,000.
"We really wanted to focus on a local organization that supports our local community. And by supporting Courage Kenny Northland, we guarantee that all of our efforts stay in the area," Pederson said.
Jan Simpson manned the Courage Kenny booth Friday morning, helping people fill out raffle tickets and handing out brochures. Simpson has volunteered with the adaptive ski and adaptive biking programs for the past nine years. She says she volunteers because she enjoys helping people experience more mobility and freedom.
"It's a nice opportunity for kids and adults with limited mobility to try something new. It would be prohibitive for someone to buy this kind of equipment, as it is probably expensive," Simpson said.
Of course, it wouldn't be a hockey tournament without a few hockey moms and/or grandmothers to watch the players. Duluthian Mary Thorene came to see her grandson-in-law Zack Hessel play for the Southwest Side Law Enforcement team. The team faced off against the Iron Range Law Dogs Friday afternoon.
"I love watching hockey, it's so fast. These guys play pretty well," Thorene said.
Tracy Gerads of Blaine traveled with her husband to watch her son Briggs, a deputy sheriff of Hennepin County play also for the Southwest Side team. Gerads said Briggs has been playing hockey since he was 6 years old and he played throughout high school.
"So we've made many trips up to Duluth to watch him play," Gerads said. "He's No. 13 again which is great because that was his favorite high school number."
This year, the Thunder Bay police department team took first place in the blue division and the Southside Law Enforcement claimed first in the red division. The white division champions were the Hermantown-based "Smokies," a team made up of firefighters, EMTs and other emergency workers.