FLEETWOOD — Surrey firefighters and others put on their hockey gear to “Break the Ice” about mental-health issues faced by first responders.
An annual day-long hockey tournament on Friday (Oct. 16) featured 11 teams in action at Surrey Sport and Leisure Centre on Fraser Highway.
When it was launched in 2011, the tourney benefited a snack program backed by Surrey Fire Fighters Association.
This year, the focus was put on mental health awareness and education. Funds raised will support the association’s related charitable initiatives, said Mike McNamara, president of the union.
“The one driver here is that the fellow who ran the tournament for the snack program was Ernie Dombrowski, and he was the second (Surrey) firefighter who took his own life last year. He was the guy who started this tournament and ran it,” McNamara told the Now.
“We want this tournament to continue out of respect for everything he’s done to make it happen, and it was a good fit for us to change the focus to mental health,” McNamara added.
“Ernie’s wife and son were there for the final game, so it was nice to have them there.”
During last year’s tournament, McNamara played on a “Class of 1995” squad that included Kevin Hegerty, a fellow Surrey firefighter who took his own life in March after years of struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This year’s tournament had “a lot of positive energy and attitude around it,” McNamara said.
“It really felt that way, with the bad year we had, you know, it was the fellows coming together and remembering the fellows that we lost. It was also about spending some quality time together and raising awareness about the issue of mental health, too. It’s all really important.”
The high-tempo Competitive Division games included teams from Surrey, Delta, Vancouver and Burnaby.
“The action can be really good because we have some ex-NHLers in some of the departments,” McNamara said. “It’s pretty fun to watch.”
The association’s school snack program will continue to benefit from other fundraising efforts, he said.
“We still strongly support the snack program (and) we have a lot of resources going there, so we changed the focus of the tournament and the proceeds from it will go to our mental-health initiatives,” McNamara explained.