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When a Phoenix Coyotes Game is more than just a Game

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The Phoenix Coyotes took the ice on Wednesday for a charity scrimmage to benefit the families of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died fighting a wildfire on June 30.

Jaime Eisner

The number 19. Its glistening white glow amid a red background is not an uncommon site at Arena; but never has it been more meaningful.

Sports are commonly referred to as only a game. Often times they are more than that, much more. Wednesday night's intra-sqaud game between the Phoenix Coyotes is an example of that.

Captain Shane Doan glided across the ice, donning the number 19 he always wears, the number of tribute on the evening. When fans see the number 19 in Glendale, it conjures up feelings of loyalty, respect and admiration. On this night, those same feels were there, but with markedly more sorrow.

No points were awarded in the standings and there was no team in the opposing locker room; yet it might have been the most important game of the season.

"19" was not the number of the captain on this night, but the visual representation of the tragedy that befell the Granite Mountain Hotshots, their friends and their families on June 30. Arizona, and the nation, witnessed the largest loss of life by firefighters since the Sept. 11th attacks in 2001. Nineteen firefighters risked and ultimately gave their lives defending the people, property and land of Yarnell, Arizona.

In conjunction with the city of Glendale, the Coyotes decided to help the families of the firefighters who gave their lives. All proceeds from the game's ticket sales and game-worn jersey auction will go to benefit those families. The 50/50 raffle will also go toward helping the families. The final 50/50 total was $10,575. Glendale Firefighters Charities sold lapel pins to raise money as well.

The event raised more than $165,000 dollars for the families, which included a donation match by IceArizona.

The admiration and respect for the Granite Mountain Hotshots was not limited to those behind the panes of glass, the tragedy hit home for many Coyotes, especially Head Coach Dave Tippett.

Tippett, who spent two summers fighting wildfires in northern Saskatchewan, said before the game that fighting wildfires is a lot like hockey; it's all about the team. He added that he is glad the team is able to do something to help the families affected. "When you lose 19 good men, that leaves a lot of families searching for answers."

Hopefully the Coyotes, the city of Glendale, Glendale Firefighters, IceArizona and all those who participated in Wednesday's charity event helped ease the pain caused by the tragedy on Yarnell Hill.

Red team defeated the White team 2-1 on goals by Mikkel Boedker and Andy Miele. Brendan Shinnimin scored the shoot-out winning goal, the only goal, to win the contest for team White.