This year, proceeds from an annual charity event that engages Oakland fire and police department members in a battle over the hockey puck went to honor the memories of four fallen Oakland police officers killed in the line of duty last March. While the Oakland Police Department was victorious for the second year in a row, the night was focused on Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Sgt. Ervin Romans, Sgt. Daniel Sakai and Officer John Hege and their families.
“The fun part of this event is the game between the Cops and Fire, but the serious part is the charity for the fallen officers,” said Officer J. Balaoro, a junior officer for the Oakland Police Department.
Balaoro knew all of the fallen officers, but had a particularly close relationship to Dunakin. Dunakin was Balaora’s direct sergeant.
“The easiest way to say it is that it reminds us how much we take life for granted – how short life can potentially be. We push our limits in order to live life to the fullest but it’s all about choosing your battles,” he said.
$20 gate donations, a silent auction and t-shirt sales were among the methods used to generate money for the bereaved families. Auction items included signed hockey pucks, fire department hats and shirts, hockey sticks and jerseys and family fun packs or hockey classes, along with official Raiders practice gear.
Last year’s funds from the first annual Oakland Charity Hockey Game went to Oakland Tech to support a new hockey program. $8,000 was raised and donated to the high school according to Danielle Halpin, a wife of a fireman playing on the Fire team.
Oakland Tech students, such as Jasime Broome, were helping out at the event. “We wanted to give back for the donations we received last year,” said Broome.
“The cops won last year. This year, my heart’s with Fire, but my head’s with Cops,” said Mary Salas, a wife of a fireman playing for the Fire team.
At the end of the first period of the game, the score remained in favor of Cops 3-0. At the beginning of the second period, Fire scored their first point, setting the crowd of men, women and children bundled in jackets as they filled the bleachers into a roar of screams and applause. With three minutes to go in the second period, the score favored the Cops 4-2. Through falls and wall-slams, the Cops earned their second year win at the event with a 5-2 score in the third period.
Heidi Acosta wore her police jersey to the event in support of her boyfriend Chris Standsone, a police officer in Oakland for 11 years.
“The Police don’t have a league. They don’t really practice for this event specifically, but some of the guys are on different leagues – not police specific,” explained Acosta.
According to fireman’s wife Rachael Sanders, the Fire Department does have a four team hockey league.