MISSOULA — Missoula area fighters are anxious to strap on the skates, grab the hockey sticks and get back to making money for local charities with Fire on Ice after a year in the pandemic penalty box.
It was a cold day at the Florence ice rink when we recently stopped by but that wasn't stopping Missoula Fire's hockey team from getting in a few minutes to work out the muscle kinks and get the skates looking shiny again following last year's cancellation of Fire on Ice.
In fact, watching how quickly they were clearing out the snow I think they might have stumbled on a new fundraiser for next year!
"It's good to be out again," Brent Cunniff said. "I mean, we obviously got shut down last year, but I think we're at a point that everybody is really looking forward to starting this up again and we're going to have a good time I think on Saturday."
There's a lot of humility with this hockey team, as everyone admits "it's been a while", with no one expecting to hit the boards with the Flames or the Kraken next week. But what these guys have is a caring heart — as well as a desire to hustle to help the community.
"You need to get out and have fun and we're all on different shifts, and so we just interact when we can," Cunniff told MTN News. "And a day like today where we can get together and get a little practice in, it's all nice and fun hanging out with the guys."
Beyond being a lot of fun for the firefighters, this is all about raising money for local charities — and they've raised a lot of it over the past decade.
"You know, honestly, I think we did feel like we could get to this point," Chris Kovatch admits. "You know, Great Falls has always hosted their Guns and Hoses events with versus police and it would always be a big event. And so, I do think that we believe that it would get to the point where it is right now."
"And we get amazing support from the community and the citizens of Missoula and the surrounding area," Kovatch continued. "You know, raising $70,000 over the last 10 years is an impressive amount of money for charities."
Kovatch notes it all comes down to the ongoing community interest.
"We get awesome support for silent auction items, people coming out just enjoying the event. You know, it's always free. So if you just want to come and watch, that's awesome. But yeah, there's a silent auction, beanies. I mean there's a lot of things that you can contribute monetarily if you'd like."
But make no mistake. This is a competition. We asked that, noting the wildland firefighter team was "somewhat inconspicuous" on this chilly morning, and whether that could be an advantage.
"Well, let's hope they're not practicing on their own somewhere else," Cunniff laughed. "We're were hoping to get a little scouting report on them today, but I guess that's not the case."