Consider Operation Hockey Heroes a success, says lieutenant colonel Forrest Rock.
The celebrity charity hockey game with Hayley Wickenheiser and former Edmonton Oilers (Brian Benning, Shawn Belle, Mark Fistric, Doug Hicks, Dave Lumley) was put on by the 401 tactical fighter squadron stationed at 4-Wing Military base to give back to the community in December.
Operation Hockey Heroes raised $29,400 for the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund, plus another $800 and over twelve hundred pounds of food for the Cold Lake Food Bank.
“I thought it was a tremendous success,” said Lt. Col. Forrest Rock.
“My affiliation was direct in that I’m the commanding officer of 401 tactical fighter squadron. This last year was our 100 year anniversary and we have a legacy of giving back to the community and active community engagement. This was essentially the capstone event for the year, one where we could renew that legacy,” he said.
Along with the hockey heroes, eight military members, community volunteers, RCMP, Cold Lake Fire, youth hockey players, and four sponsored players comprised the two teams of 22.
The squadron partnered with the Military Family Resource Centre to help “bring in some horsepower” to make he event as successful as they hoped.
“Throughout our history, we’ve always given back to the communities we’ve been a part of. We’ve been based out of the world and Canada. Back at the end of WWII for example, 401 squadron raised the money to install the stained glass window at the Biggin Hill chapel in London, England, which is basically a chapel dedicated the men and women who fought in the Battle of Britain.
“When we were in the city of Westmount we were always engaged in the community there. Then being in Cold Lake, the squadron activated in July of 2015 here in Cold Lake. This is probably the first large event we’ve done here,” said Lt. Col. Rock.
Wickenheiser, who was named Honorary Colonel of 401 tactical squadron beforehand, even snuck away during the second period to play with the girls and boys on the rink beside Imperial Oil Place.
“It was during the second period we realized there was a game going on next door with an all-girls team playing a mixed boys and girls team. With about seven or eight minutes left in the second period, we took her across to the other arena and she played the rest of the period with them and did a big group picture with them,” said Rock.
The proceeds are going back to supporting veterans and their families.
“One of our objectives was to raise awareness and resources to support our veterans and their families. It was almost a perfect charity to focus our efforts on raising money for.
“The Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund is the one that if a veteran is having a tough time paying their power bill to make sure they can have heat in their own home, they can go and help them out. They’re very involved with helping veterans with disabilities as well, and of course their families. That was the main place we wanted to see the money go,” said Lt. Col. Rock.
He said his favourite part of the event was being on the ice for puck drop right before the game, knowing there was nothing left to do.
“That was the moment you realize you just spent eight months getting to that point, and there was nothing else you had to do or needed to do, it was all just happening in front of us. It was a very exciting morning….I slept for about 30 hours afterward,” said Lt. Col. Rock.