MISSOULA - It's not the Stanley Cup but the rivalry is getting nearly as intense as the NHL in Missoula's annual "Fire on Ice" charity hockey game. The difference is the firefighter's fundraising.
When Missoula's city, rural and wildland firefighters hit Glacier Ice Rink this year, everyone was excited. Where the city firefighters dominated earlier contests, their brethren from outside city limits were amped. In fact, The Wildland Firefighters won 3-2, and Missoula Rural skated to a 9-7 win, capturing bragging rights for a second year in a row.
"We've had high scoring games before but this one kind of started right out of the gates. It was just goal after goal after goal and it's fun. It's fun for the crowd to see that too, a high scoring game," said Max Kottwitz with the Missoula Rural Fire District. "It's not so fun for the goalies but it's fun for the crowd. It gets them all entertained and it's fun for us too because we like to score goals."
"They're playing great. Yeah, everybody is improving over the years and this is the seventh year that we've played. So, everybody's getting better over the years," said Philip Keating with Missoula Firefighters IAFF 271.
"Every year it's been a good crowd. We have a lot of supporters of both our fire organizations. And a lot of people come out for that game and they enjoy it. And we're glad they enjoy it," Kottwitz said.
In between slap shots and slides, there's the silent auction. The three teams raised over $11,000 for local charities like "Fired Up For Kids", the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, and the new Missoula "sled hockey" program.
"It gives everybody, no matter a disability or not, a chance to play hockey. We thought it was a good opportunity to raise some money for a good organization and try to get sled hockey as big as hockey is in Missoula," Kottwitz told MTN News.
"I think a lot of firemen get involved because they like to not be wrapped up in themselves and give an opportunity for other people -- to not be selfish. So this is just another opportunity for us to be involved with different organizations in the community," Keating said.
"If we can give back once a year to try and support any organization throughout the community we will. And hopefully multiple times a year," Kottwitz.
"You know, it's good to see people on their terms when it's not such a bad time in their life also," Keating said. And there's always room for donations, "we have a committee, a newly formed committee, that's working on all of our fundraising events and extracurricular activities."