By: Frank Green

It was the third annual heroes and hockey game in McBride, and the soldiers were tired. They had finished a hike through raw forest in the mountains around the village earlier that day, carrying heavy rucksacks and dragging sleds full of gear that weighed a couple hundred pounds. The 30 kilometer journey took them about 11 hours, the soldier sitting next to me explained. And now that soldier wanted to either go to bed, or drink and then go to bed, and he couldn’t until the game was over. If nothing else, he was happy that he wasn’t playing hockey that day. The soldiers said most of the people on their team had been on the 30 kilometer journey, and they gleefully pointed out which of their players were suffering from a bad ankle, or a gash in the leg.

The soldiers, from the 1 Service Battalion in Edmonton, initially kept the game close, but faded and lost 7-1. They also lost the opener, a wild warm-up match between the McBride Oldtimers and some of 1 Battalion’s oldtimers. McBride initially led 4-1, but then the troops surged to a 6-4 lead. McBride came back, and scored at the very end of regulation to snatch the win, 8-7.

The showdown served as a fundraiser for McBride’s food bank, and after the games, organizers brought the charity’s coordinator Julie Holland onto the ice to present her with nearly $350 donated by the visiting soldiers.

“It’s great to have the community come together and support the food bank,” Holland said.

The games also netted about 300 donations of non-perishable food. One soldier said he dropped a can of Pilsner in the food bank box, and Holland confirmed that a beer had been found.

“I think the soldier should be thanked for his thoughtfulness,” she said. “However, we do not collect or distribute alcohol.”