LAKE PLACID - When it comes to boys high school hockey, the rivalry between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid is as fierce as it gets.
That will no doubt be the case when the two teams square off Saturday at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, but this year, the two are also joining forces to support a worthy cause.
When the Red Storm and Blue Bombers step on the ice to face each other starting at 8 p.m., the players will be wearing camouflage jerseys. The two teams have banded together to raise funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that supports tens of thousands of wounded warriors each year across the United States.
Saranac Lake captain Brad Shumway, left, and Lake Placid captain Shane McNierney display the jerseys their teams will wear during their two hockey games this season, including Saturday’s matchup at the Civic Center.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
The teams will continue their benefit effort when they meet on the ice again on Feb. 7 at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. The proceeds from both games will go toward the fundraiser, which Blue Bombers head coach Keith Clark said is expected to bring in thousands of dollars this season.
The plan to organize the benefit games came about during a round of golf that Clark and Saranac Lake head coach Will Ellsworth enjoyed together during the summer.
"We always try to do something unrelated to hockey," Ellsworth said. "The rivalry is so intense at times that we just want to step away from the hockey side of things and show what we can do collaboratively.
"Just to raise awareness, we came together and said 'What can we do as a community event," Ellsworth continued. "Having a support structure for the wounded warriors is what this is all about, and what we are doing is just a small piece of the puzzle. We're all in it for the same reason. The whole purpose is definitely to honor and empower the wounded warrior."
"Our games get pretty good crowds, and we will be able to raise a lot of money from the two upcoming games for a great cause," Clark said. "Our team always is involved in community-related activities, and helping the Wounded Warrior Project is our focus this year."
On Monday before the Saranac Lake-Lake Placid varsity girls basketball game, hockey captains Brad Shumway of the Red Storm and Shane McNierney of the Blue Bombers broke out the jerseys that their teams will be wearing for the two games. Saranac Lake's sweater features a white and grey camouflage background with a red SLHS and player number emblazoned across the front. Lake Placid's jersey is black, green and brown with a white Lake Placid and player number on the front. Players on both teams will have their names on the back.
Players on both teams searched for sponsors for the jerseys, which cost $65 each with $20 from each jersey purchased going toward the fundraiser. Many of the players went above and beyond in terms of getting sponsorship above the cost of the hockey jerseys.
"I've had members of different generations of my family serve, and that makes what we are doing that much more emotional," Shumway said. "I'm honored to be a part of this."
"I think this is taking the rivalry into a different direction," McNierney said. "When we step on the ice Saturday, there will be a few smiles up until that first check. Then it's all business because this is league game, and you want to win every league game you can.
"But at the same time, it's great having the chance to come together and do our part to help," McNierney continued. "It's pretty exciting. This is something I've eyed on the calendar before the season started."
In addition to gate proceeds, spectators will be able to help raise funding with the purchase of tee-shirts at the game, with $5 from each sale going to the Wounded Warrior Project. Ellsworth said other activities and a ceremony are also planned as part of the fundraising effort.
"It's going to be a great night of hockey," Ellsworth said.