HERSHEY — The old Hershey Park Arena was given new life Saturday night and for a good cause. Four local hockey teams joined forces to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project. Dickinson, Shippensburg and Widener all attended the first annual event hosted by Penn State-Harrisburg’s Ice Hockey Club.
The event is the brainchild of Graham Smith, a student and member of the hockey team at Penn State Harrisburg. Smith had been pondering ideas since last June for a public event that would help the program gain momentum and serve the community.
“Penn State Harrisburg, being so close to Middletown air force base has a lot of military people go through,” Smith said. “So, we decided to put together a military fundraising event and the Wounded Warriors Project is what we came up with.”
Smith sent a mass email to all 20 teams in the league. “I had a fantastic response, within 10 minutes I had seven teams that wanted to do it.” Limited timing and scheduling limited the tournament to four teams, something Smith hopes to change next year.
The first game was a matchup between the Dickinson Red Devils and the Widener University Pride. Struggling all night to apply pressure, the Red Devils operated a short bench against a larger Widener team, falling 6-2.
“Widener is a great opponent,” Red Devil Andrew Babbidge said. “I wish the score board turned in our favor.”
The loss to Widener certainly didn’t silence the thundering Dickinson bench and it didn’t make them forget what the night was really all about.
“It’s an honor,” Babbidge said. “It’s great to come out and be able fundraise for the Wounded Warriors.”
Dickinson sported special alternate jerseys for the charity game, choosing to wear red and black camo instead of their traditional red and white uniforms.
The momentum kept going in Game 2 as the Penn State-Harrisburg Nittany Lions faced the Shippensburg University Raiders. Both teams brought their physical A-game and neither team showed signs of slowing down in the fast-tempo, point-for-point game.
It seemed like the Lions were making a comeback late in the second, but with every goal they tallied, the Raiders struck again. At the halfway mark, the Raiders had outshot the Lions 12 to 2 leading to a strong finish by Shippensburg with an 8-3 win.
Both teams took a slew of penalties, but the repercussions were costly for the Nittany Lions. Some quick-fire shots gave the Raiders a 2-0 lead to end the first period. A hard hit to the Lions goalkeeper with no call prompted a fight to breakout in the second period.
Between periods, members of the Raiders bench took time out from the competition to approach members of the Armed Forces and subtly show their gratitude with a quick pat on the back and a “Thank you for your service.”
Veteran’s Day may have been a week ago, but the efforts of these four teams show that we can take a timeout to thank service men and women anytime, anyplace, anywhere and by doing anything.
The tournament raised around $1,000 dollars benefitting the Wounded Warriors Project. Smith expects the event will continue next year with hopes of an increase in turn out and donations.