Call it an ice homecoming.
The 44th annual Fire vs. Police department charity hockey game returned to Brooklyn on March 18 — not to Coney Island’s Abe Stark Arena, where city cops and firefighters first faced off in the storied inter-city rivalry back in 1974 — but, for the first time ever, to Barclays Center.
When the sticks, pucks, and fists stopped flying, the Fire Department’s skaters emerged with a 7–3 victory, ending a three-game losing streak to their Police Department counterparts and grabbing some much-needed local bragging rights.
“It feels great to get this win. We lost three years in a row to these guys, so to get this win tonight is great,” said Firefighter Michael Keane “We just stuck with our game plan, which was to keep pressure on them and tire out their defense. It worked out great tonight for us.”
The sellout crowd of more than 14,000 was entertained from the first puck drop as the two squads came out aggressively early on. Both teams did their best to force the tempo, but neither could get an edge, and the first period ended in a 2–2 tie.
The second period brought much of the same; firefighter Chris Princiotta netted an unassisted goal just minutes into the stanza, but longtime police hockey standout Chet Wakie answered quickly with his own unassisted score just a minute later.
The Police Department opened the third period facing a one-goal deficit, and then the gloves came off, literally and physically. The Fire Department’s Julian Carney scored twice in just eight minutes, to push his team’s lead to three.
With the game seemingly slipping away from the Finest, play began to get increasingly physical. Several fights — each drawing appreciative roars from the crowd — broke out in the waning minutes of regulation. In the end, the Fire Department’s late-game offensive heat left police blue.
“Having lost three times in a row to us we knew that they would come really hard tonight,” said Police Officer Ryan Collins. “During that last period they just had more legs than us and I just honestly think they wanted it more than us as well.”
Naturally, the police squad was disappointed in the defeat, but conceded that in the end, the game wasn’t about the final score, but about the letters on the front of their sweaters and all that they represent.
“This is a huge honor,” Collins said. “There’s over 35,000 officers in the city and only 25 of them play hockey, so it’s amazing for me to be one of those select few to be out there to represent my colleagues and departments.”