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Lakers to ditch blue and white jerseys this Sunday

Honorary Colonel Paul Cook (l), Lakers player Brandon Happeney (c) and Commander of CFB North Bay, Colonel J. Malo (r) want to see a sea of red for this Sunday's game in support of the troops .

Honorary Colonel Paul Cook (l), Lakers player Brandon Happeney (c) and Commander of CFB North Bay, Colonel J. Malo (r) want to see a sea of red for this Sunday's game in support of the troops .

The Nipissing Lakers are ditching their blue and white jerseys and sporting camouflage for this Sunday’s match up against the Royal Military College from Kingston, Ontario.

Officials say the First Annual Support the Troops game at Memorial Gardens is an opportunity for the community to show the military families posted in the Bay that they are not alone and that this community is proud of the work they do day in and out.

“We were approached by the Lakers some time ago to form a committee to have a game to honour the troops,” explains Honorary Colonel Paul Cook.

“The military was honoured to have the Lakers approach them to talk about them being centre stage. A game between the Lakers and the Royal Military College, which of course is taking place this Sunday at 4 o’clock, we’re hoping for a good turnout from the fans not just to be entertained by a quality hockey game between our Lakers and the Royal Military College, but to show our troops that we are supportive of them and appreciate what they do for us each and every day.”

Cook says he had a great time working on the committee to put together a game that features a number of special events including special opening ceremonies featuring military personnel, a military colour guard and the 22 Wing Band.

Fans will also have the opportunity to win a vehicle courtesy of Stockfish Ford during one of the many special intermission events planned for the game.

“Again I would encourage everybody in the community to get out and support the troops,” states Cook.

“Hockey is a big part of our world here in Canada and that certainly couldn’t be more true with the (Canadian) World Juniors playing for the gold medal tonight. A number of the members of 22 Wing are involved in playing hockey or have children that play hockey, I know that they partnered this year with Tom Headican’s Coach4Food campaign, so again I think this is an opportunity for the community to come out and show our support for the troops.”

“As I said earlier there’s approximately 400 military families who will be here at the game and we want to pack the Gardens to show them how much we care and we are encouraging everyone to wear red to support the troops.”

Commander of CFB North Bay, Colonel J. Malo tells BayToday that it is very important for the military to be connected with the community that it serves because at the end of the day the job that they do isn’t just for personal gain.

“We don’t do it for us … we do it for the community, so any chance we have to connect with the community is vital to our ability to do what we do. And an opportunity like this for a community to say thank you is very much appreciated.”

“The military members and their families carry a burden and that burden is with us throughout our career, so that unlimited liability that we may be called upon to go anywhere around the world to protect Canadians and do it at home or abroad we put our lives in danger, so when a community can help us carry that burden it makes it a lot easier for us to do what we do,” he explains.

“So that is why and event like Sunday’s is so important. And it is one of the big two events now in North Bay where we have a chance to connect the (CFB) community with North Bay. The next one is in June when we are going to have the CF Days on the waterfront and that’s going to be a great day. Do you know also that this year is the 60th anniversary of CFB North Bay so we are going to have a number of engagements throughout the year and my hope is to we really reconnect with the community of North Bay with the base and community members.”

Malo adds that a hockey game celebrating the military is a great fit as you would be hard pressed to find a place that has any Canadian military without hockey fans.

“It is very Canadian and we have a military hockey team … now I’m not going to say who is going to win the game but it will be very hard for us from North Bay to split our allegiance between the Royal Military College and our famous Lakers but we’ll see … May the best team win.”

For Lakers player Brandon Happeney the game takes on a personal element which he hopes will help educate everyone about the sacrifices not only military personnel make but also the ones their families make keeping our borders safe.

“It’s deep roots that I have … for me my game (this Sunday) connects me to all the military families because I’m from a military family as well. My dad is an air service engineer in the military and I know all about the postings, I know all about how hard life can be as a military family. I have friends who are part of military families and they move around every two years and that’s really tough especially when you’re growing up and I think that it is nice that the team is doing something for the troops.”

“Military parents have to go away across seas and it’s hard to live when you have one parent around. It was stressful for my mom while my dad was away across seas, so I think it’s pretty nice that our team is doing something for them to recognize the effort they put forth in protecting our country.”

Happeney agrees that hockey is one of those things that is embedded in Canadian roots and it doesn’t matter if you are military or not, hockey is something that people really enjoy to watch.

“So it is nice that it all intertwines with the Canadian forces and it’s just nice to see everyone coming together and doing something positive for the community.”

“My message to the community for this game is just show your support for troops."

"They seem to fly under the radar a lot, you see them walking around the grocery store and all of that jazz but it is nice to show you’re appreciation for them and actually recognise them what they do as protecting Canada … it is not an easy job.”

The special edition Lakers camouflage jerseys will be auctioned off at the game with the proceeds going to the CFB North Bay Family Resource Centre.

Tickets for the Support the Troops Game are available at the Gardens Box Office on Chippewa Street or by calling 474-3770.