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Plans for Innisfail’s upcoming Battle of the Badges heat up

Second annual fundraiser hockey game on Jan. 5 will feature local celebrity hockey players for each team
Innisfail Fire Department firefighter Ella Heistad (left) and Innisfail RCMP Const. Jackson Haddow are ready for the second annual Battle of the Badges on Jan. 5, 2024 at the Innisfail Twin Arena. Photo and graphic courtesy of @elevate.uav

INNISFAIL – Innisfail Fire Department Chief Gary Leith turned hockey coach is convinced his team will have a better score when the final buzzer goes off on Jan. 5.

Unlike preparations for the inaugural Battle of the Badges game a year ago Leith said his squad will hit the ice before Jan. 5 and practise. Not just once but maybe twice.

Last year the RCMP hockey team built up a big lead by the end of two periods but Innisfail Fire Rescue stormed back by mid point of the third to make it close, only to have the Mounties regroup to score a few more to win by a final score of 15-10.

“After the first period or so our guys would be honest to say yes, ‘they were getting pummelled.’ The guys were quite red-faced. We are going to have a few practices this year,” said Leith with a slight chuckle and noting the event has a much higher cause than the game itself.

“There's lots of people struggling and certainly after the Christmas period this will be a huge boost to the food bank in our community.”

He said his hockey team for the 2nd Annual Battle of the Badges will be comprised of firefighters from Innisfail, Red Deer County, Spruce View and Red Deer.

For the 1st Annual Battle of the Badges both teams relied on support from alumni of both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers but that help is unavailable this year.

The Mounties will be looking to other regional detachments for extra player support but there is also a novel approach organizers are looking at.

“We're trying to find some local celebrities that can play hockey,” said Courtney Malone, the local RCMP detachment service assistant and exhibit custodian, who is on the upcoming game’s organizing committee.

“We are going to try and find some local talent that have played in the pros before,” said Malone, adding she has been in contact with a few Innisfail Eagles players to see if they are interested in helping out.

And even with the disappointment of not having professional alumni players to draw from, Malone is convinced each Battle of the Badges team will have at least 15 players; including at least three local hockey-skilled celebrities.

Malone said the event’s organizing committee has secured sponsorship for the game. She said the event will also be selling Donut Burgers from the RCMP and Firehouse Burgers from Innisfail Fire Rescue.

One dollar from each sale at the game will go towards the Innisfail and District Food Bank, the event’s chosen charity for the second year in a row.

Last year the inaugural Battle of the Badges raised more than $6,000 and 1,487 pounds of food for the local food bank.

“It exceeded everyone's expectations, and so we're kind of hoping to build on that this year,” said Innisfail RCMP Const. Craig Nelson, the unofficial caption of the RCMP hockey team and a co-organizer of the event.

“It’s nice to have an affordable event right after Christmas when everybody's a little bit stressed from Christmas, and on top of that be able to replenish the food bank after they experienced a really high volume at Christmastime."

Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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