Downtown division police officers traded their utility belts and uniforms for shin pads and skates to play a friendly game of hockey with local kids in the 10th annual McCauley Cup Friday.
More than 50 young people from the neighbourhood took turns hitting the ice with police officers for one simple reason: “We love playing hockey,” said Kevin Olafson, 19.
The event began a decade ago when a downtown beat officer wanted to bridge the gap between police and the community. Since then, the game remains popular — no matter how chilly it gets.
“It gives us face time with the community, and gives us the opportunity to talk about how to make things better,” said organizer Const. Andrew Melney.
“You’re really only as successful as your relationships with community members. To see the kids and how proud they are to play with us is pretty humbling,” said Melney.
Not only did the game bring local kids and cops together, it brought everyone a little closer to Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl.
At one point, Draisaitl appeared outside the skate shack at McCauley Rink and fans scrambled to get in line for an autograph.
For incoming Edmonton police chief Dale McFee, this game was a great equalizer. Wearing a pair of sweat pants, he endured some playful trash-talking.
“He claims that he was a junior hockey player at some point in his life — I guess we’ll find out,” said Coun. Scott McKeen, who was there to declare Dec. 28 McCauley Cup Day in Edmonton.
The opportunity to play hockey with the chief — whatever his skill level — was also intriguing for the young players. “I think he should be pretty good,” said Bryce Olafson, 17, before the game started. “But I’m scared to check him,” he said, smiling.
The McCauley Cup represents resilience and its success is a sign of positive change. “The strength in this community and everybody who is here today is a positive indicator of what can happen when you bring folks together for something as simple as playing hockey,” said Greg Lane, president of the McCauley Community League.
“I’m so proud to be in this community at this event. Things have changed here because of the work of many volunteers,” McKeen said.
And before the day was done, Bryce Olafson received the perfect souvenir for a kid who loves hockey: a brand new stick signed by Draisaitl.
“Awesome,” he said.