Good Ol’ Great Lakes Hockey!

Guest post written by Seaman Christopher Yaw, Coast Guard Station Charlevoix, Mich.

ST. IGNACE, Mich. - Coast Guard Fireman Josh McKenzie, of Station St. Ignace, Mich., shoots the puck as Petty Officer 2nd Class Brad Belisle, of Station St. Clair Shores, Mich., approaches during the 11th annual Great White Cup at Little Bear East Ice Arena in St. Ignace, Feb. 10, 2012.

 

The snow fell in droves over the Straits of Mackinac as teams started to arrive. Then, whistles blew and you could cut the anticipation with a knife. Pucks rang from the post and cracked off the glass. Goalies stood their ground, trying to anticipate where the next salvo would come from.

The previous 10 years have been no different. Twelve teams fought valiantly for the 11th annual Great White Cup at Little Bear East Ice Arena, St. Ignace, Mich., Feb. 10, 2012.

“The tournament happens every year in February,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Welch, a food service specialist assigned to Coast Guard Station St. Ignace, Mich., and the event organizer. “It’s become a tradition.”

A large part of putting on the tournament is giving everyone who might not otherwise have the opportunity, a chance to play, said Welch.

“The goal is to make it bigger than it was,” Welch added.

It has grown. It started with only northern 9th Coast Guard District units invited to compete in the Great White Cup. This year, players from all over the district returned to fight for the prize.

But it isn’t just returning players that keep the Great White Cup going.

“I have all the gear and figured – why not?” said Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Johnson, a storekeeper at Coast Guard Station Charlevoix, Mich., and first-year participant who played goalie. “I actually learned a lot. I’m glad I came.”

With teams of three to six people, made up of Coast Guard active-duty, reserve, civilian, and retired, this half-ice, three-on-three ice hockey tournament became a test of endurance the further teams advanced.

In the end, it came down to the team from Air Station Traverse City, Mich., against the team from Station Calumet Harbor in Chicago.

Each team kept trying to bang the biscuit past the goalie, Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Stillion, a damage controlman from Coast Guard Sector Field Office Grand Haven, Mich., who did everything but stand on his head trying to rob the teams of highly sought after goals.

But there could only be one, and after a hard fought game when the snow settled and the cup was raised, Air Station Traverse City stood alone as champions.

ST. IGNACE, Mich. - Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Stillion, of Sector Field Office Grand Haven, Mich., sprawls out to block a shot on goal during the 11th annual Great White Cup at Little Bear East Ice Arena in St. Ignace, Feb. 10, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Christopher Yaw