Hockeytown Cares Community Tour Comes to Ann Arbor

(From left to right) Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi signed autographs for the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

By: Seth Kinker, 

This morning the Detroit Red Wings Hockeytown Cares Community Tour came to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Red Wings Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi were at the Ann Arbor Fire Department this morning to tour the department and visit with firefighters and first responders.

In addition to a meet and greet, Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi took part in a skills competition against firefighters from the department that combined skills that the firefighters use, as well as some hockey.

Before the competition, there was a commemoration ceremony for the first responders that lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks 17 years ago.

The Ann Arbor Fire Department Color Guard presented the colors, and a bell was rung in four sets of five rings. That signal has been used in firehouses since 1870, it signifies a death of a firefighter and notifies firefighters to lower the American flag to half-staff.

Before the technology was available, dispatchers communicated with firehouses using rings and codes to give the location of a blaze to the nearest intersection. Nowadays, a dispatcher uses a computer screen to monitor for the location for the blaze, but the 5-5-5-5 fire code is still used to announce the death of a firefighter.

“You think about 9/11 and the first responders and what they did for people and how much they helped that day,” said Larkin when asked about being at the fire department on the anniversary of 9/11. “A lot of them were firefighters, it does have an extra special feeling being here today, seeing the impact here 17 years later and how the firefighter community sticks together.”

After the commemoration ceremony, a team of firefighters took on Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi combining firefighter and NHL player skill. In a time trialed relay, each team member had a task to fulfill before the next team member could start.

It began with a hose drag, followed by the dragging of a dummy, followed by hitting a tire with a sledgehammer, and culminated with five pushups before a hockey stick and pucks awaited the last participant. In order to score, pucks had to be shot into one of the four corners of the net.

“It was cool to see how they move,” said Larkin of the competition. “I’ve got a lot of respect for them carrying around all that equipment, it’s impressive.”

Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi won, but the real winner was the Great Lakes Burn Camp.

Chief Kennedy presents Mike Longenecker with a check for the Great Lakes Burn Camp.

The visit was the second to last of the 10thannual tour that donates time and resources to organizations across Michigan leading up to the start of Red Wings training camp in Traverse City. The players made a $3,500 donation to the camp on behalf of the Ann Arbor Fire Department.

The Great Lakes Burn Camp provides a week in the summer and weekend in the winter that “provides a unique experience that promotes healing, self-esteem, confidence, and general well-being for children with burn injuries.”

“Chief (Mike) Kennedy called me and said the Red Wings were gonna come, they wanted to do a charity donation, and Chief picked us as the charity,” said Mike Longenecker, Camp Director at the Great Lakes Burn Camp. “94-95 cents of every dollar will go to the kids; the money goes right towards the kids that make the camp happen. It’s like a scholarship for the kids to attend camp. We feed the kids, if they need any new clothes or shoe for summer, jackets, boots for winter, we’ve got all that stuff for them. Its super important for their well-being and self-esteem. The bonding that happens, it’s like we’re a family.”

Red Wings players and Ann Arbor Fire Department firefighters pose together in gear after competing in a skills competition against each other. Chief Mike Kennedy presented Mike Longenecker with a check for the Great Lakes Burn Camp.

Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi posed for pictures with the firefighters, signed autographs,  and talked with them after the competition, even taking a ride around the block in an engine near the end of their visit.

“Today’s about giving back to the community,” said Larkin on the second to last visit of the Hockeytown Cares Community Tour. “The firefighters now and kids later today, happy to have an impact in the community.”

The contingent was next scheduled to travel to Oaktree Elementary in Goodrich, MI. to play alongside students at recess and learn about the Playworks program, a nationwide initiative designed to help children stay active during recess.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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