Annual hockey game is all about good times

By Gail Wood on February 16, 2017

Each time for the past 22 years, the annual WADS Canadian-U.S. hockey game has had a guaranteed outcome.

First, there's the guaranteed fun, the good times for both the 20-some players who signed up to play hockey and the 100-plus fans cheering in the stands. And then there's the guaranteed Canadian win.

The Canadian team, made up of the 15 Canadians detached at Joint-Base Lewis-McChord with the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), are 22-0 in this let's-have-fun series. With their rich background in hockey, the Canadians are again the clear-cut favorites against the U.S. team that is always made up of guys who are just learning how to skate. This year's game is Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. at the Spanaway Sprinker Recreation Center. Admission is free.

"Lots of times it's a slaughter," said Kimberly Burke, a public affairs officer at JBLM. "It allows the Canadians to show off their skills. They're very good at hockey."

And in September, the U.S. gets to showoff their skills in softball as the U.S. and Canadians meet in an annual softball game. The U.S. hasn't lost in the three games they've played against the Canadians.

The annual hockey match emphasizes on fun and camaraderie and not so much on the outcome. Last year's hockey game was unique. The U.S. team actually led 2-0.

"We had a really good goalie which we hope to have back this year," Burke said. "And we had some people who could actually skate. But some of them have moved on."

Naturally, the Canadian team rallied and pulled out a 4-3 win. When the U.S. team led, there were a few suggestions thrown out by the crowd.

"They were pretty excited on the bench last year that they were ahead," warrant officer Rick Martin said with a chuckle. "Commander Colonel Kruger said let's call the game now."

While everyone plays to win, the outcome isn't as important as the opportunity to be together outside of work.

"It's a big camaraderie thing," Martin said. "With the Canadians and U.S. working together here, the big thing is it's a good afternoon of camaraderie. That's the biggest takeaway."

In addition to an afternoon of fun, there will also be a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, a charity that helps build homes for the less fortunate.

"One of the big things we've done, we've started in the last three years, is we combined with a charity," Martin said. "An objective of one of our commanders while he is here is community outreach. We've chosen Habitat for Humanity to help."

About $1,000 was raised last year.

While there's no ex-NHL players on the ice for the Canadians, they clearly have the skill advantage. Then come September, the U.S. gets to get their "revenge" in softball.

"We started that game a few years ago because they were a little disgruntled with losing at hockey every year," Martin said with a chuckle. "We don't win that game."

WADS Canada vs. U.S. hockey game, 1:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17, free, Sprinker Recreation Center, 14824 C St. S., Tacoma, 253.531.6300