ATLANTIC CITY - Firefighters got to skate alongside Philadelphia Flyers alumni at the Red Line Classic: Battle of the Boards at Boardwalk Hall on Sunday.
The event featured three hockey games that pitted police and fire departments from Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York against each other and with alumni from the Flyers and the New Jersey Devils.
Proceeds from the game were to benefit two causes: The Barkann Family Healing Hearts Foundation, a charity for families in need during times of tragedy, and the All Hands Working Foundation, which seeks to better prepare firefighters to serve and protect.
Bill Riess, a 42-year-old Cherry Hill firefighter who played in one of the games, said that firefighters, like athletes, need to be conditioned due to the wear and tear that comes from fighting fires.
"The problem with that is that not all fire departments' culture is based on keeping guys fit," Riess said. "It's based on responding to fires, responding to emergencies and staying trained.
"This is awareness. It puts it out there for guys to maybe take it seriously and be a little more physically fit. We provide grants and programs for training to get themselves in shape. Give them gym equipment that they might not be able to afford so a lot of this stuff goes to those departments."
Philly Fire beat Bronx Fire 7-1, and the Atlantic City Guns & Hoses beat Philly P.D. 6-3. The main event was the game that included firefighters and NHL alumni.
Jason Brown, a member of the Winslow Township Fire Department, looked around him, hoping to receive a pass from former Flyer Mark Recchi. Last year, the firefighters played against the former NHL players. This time, both teams in the main game included firefighters and former Devils and Flyers.
"It's definitely fun playing with Recchi," Brown said during the first intermission of Team Orange's (Flyers) 8-7 comeback win against Team White (Devils). "I grew up as a Flyers fan and saw him score a lot of goals. So just passing the puck with him and skating up the ice and yelling 'Rex!' for a pass and he throws it right on your tape, it's definitely special."
About 2,000 fans, family members and fellow firefighters filled the arena to watch a fun-filled but competitive game.
"We played in front of a lot of people; definitely the most people I ever played in front of," Justin Pineda, a member of the Minotola Fire Department who played for Team Orange, said during the first intermission.
Brown, who captained his team, said he grew up playing hockey. His family was there wearing different "Brown" jerseys from his playing days. He said seeing all of them wearing his jersey was "special."
"To wear the 'C' is an honor as well," Brown said. "To wear a 'C' with some Hall of Fame guys in the locker room next to me is pretty special."
Both Brown and Pineda scored key goals for their team in the second and third periods, respectively.
After trailing 6-2 in the first period, Brown's goal in the second period capped off a four-goal comeback to tie the game heading into the second intermission. Pineda scored in the third to give Team Orange its first lead of the game.
Even though Team White tied it up, former Flyers enforcer Todd Fedoruk scored his second goal of the game, serving as the winner.
But Team Orange had problems scoring in a lopsided first period, thanks in part to good goaltending by Riess, who was playing in his first game like this. Riess had to get over some pregame nerves.
"You can't relate it to anything because you were a kid watching these guys, from my generation anyway," Riess said after the first period. "You see guys like (Brian) Propp, (Rick) Tocchet, Recchi out there, it's huge.
"Those are the guys you idolized growing up and seeing those shots, it's just - you see the first one and it calms you down and you're right back into it. I've been playing all my life, but still, that level is different and it's a great time."
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