LEWISTON, Maine — Portland native Brenda Espinoza is persistent and resilient.
Her dream of putting together a winter Olympic Games for the world’s firefighters in Austria in the 1990s fell through because of a lack of participants, and a similar activity scheduled in Switzerland in 2002 was canceled, despite 700 registrants, after the 9/11 attacks.
“I didn’t have the heart to continue with it,” explained Espinoza. “When the country healed, I figured I’d do it again.”
Returning to her native Maine from Los Angeles in 2004, Espinoza came up with the idea for an ice hockey tournament, and the third annual event will take place Jan. 11-13 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
The proceeds go to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston. The event has added a team each year and has expanded from firefighters to police and military personnel, as well.
There will be eight teams this year for the International Fire, Police and Military Winter Games’ Maine Event, Battle on Ice.
The teams are defending two-time champ Lewiston Police Department, the Maine Fire comprised of firefighters from the Lewiston area, the Augusta-based Army National Guard, the Bangor-based Air National Guard and Third Watch firefighters, the Sanford Police Department, the Boston Fire Department and the Somerville (Mass.) Police Department.
The teams will play three games apiece followed by three playoff games: a fifth-place game, a third-place contest and a championship game.
Last year’s tourney raised $955 apiece for the Shriners Hospital and Special Olympics, according to Espinoza, but this year she will have just the one charity, the Shriners Hospital. “Our goal is to raise $3,000,” she said
The money is raised via ticket sales, a silent auction and a percentage of T-shirt sales.
Espinoza said the players have told her they have really enjoyed the tournament and the Maine players have said, “It’s nice someone has come forward to put something together in the state, so they don’t have to travel far away.”
Rivals the Lewiston Police Department and Maine Fire will kick off the tournament with a 7:10 a.m. round-robin game on Jan. 11. The championship game will begin at 6 p.m., Jan 13.