(Photo courtesy Boston Police Department)
Last week, before the start of their first home game, the Boston Bruins raised their 2011 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters of the TD Garden. But though the Bruins were again the talk of Boston, they weren’t the only local hockey team that made it to the championship round of a world tournament recently.
Last month, the Boston Police Department's hockey team fought its way to the championship game of the World Police & Fire Games in New York City. That’s right. Boston’s finest have a hockey team, and a fine one at that.
The team lost to the Russians in the championship game of the international biennial tournament. But while the players didn't bring home the top prize, the Police Department's hockey team established itself as one of the best police and fire squads in the world.
"We've got some serious talent on that team," said Brendan Walsh, 36, who played center for the BPD during the seven-game tournament. "In all of the tournaments we've gone to we've had a tremendous amount of success."
Throughout the weeklong tournament, which wrapped up on the first weekend in September, Boston's team prevailed over squads from five Canadian cities as well as a team from Connecticut.
Only in a re-match of the famous 1980 Olympic gold medal game did the heavily favored Russian team prove too much for the BPD to handle, sending them back to Boston with the silver medal after a 9-3 loss.
"Considering how much hockey we played ... that our bench was short ... and that we went down with three lines, we played pretty well," Walsh said. "[The Russian team's] high skill level was just their thing. They moved the puck extremely well and got out to an early lead after we got into some penalty trouble."
Unbeknownst to much of the public, members of the Boston Police Department have been lacing up their skates together for more than 20 years. Just because the team hasn't gotten a lot of attention doesn’t mean it lacks talent, said Paul Cokinos, owner of the Boch Ice Center in Dedham, where the team often practices and plays pick-up games.
"They're serious about the game," Cokinos said. "When they play, they play. And they play a fast-paced, high-level game."
In fact, the BPD roster is littered with officers who played competitive hockey in high school, college, and even the pros. Walsh won an NCAA Division I championship while playing for the University of Maine in 1999, and went on to play for the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.
Aside from participating in the World Police & Fire Games, the officers of the BPD play in pick-up games, hold practices, and compete in the Commissioner's Cup, an annual inter-department tournament that pits district vs. district.
"The Commissioner's Cup is just something that is so small and funny that, around that time every year, it becomes such a big thing and such a fun thing for all of us," Walsh said.
Deputy Superintendent Darrin Greeley, who plays right wing for the silver-medal squad, says getting out on the ice together has built strong relationships among the players.
"It definitely brings camaraderie between the guys involved," said Greeley, 45. "The best part about it is that we have cops from all ranks, that all work extremely hard on the streets ... and that are also good athletes, good dads and good community guys."
While hitting the ice is always a good way to for the officers to kick back and relieve stress, they also look to help the community. Cokinos said the squad has participated in at least two charity events at the Boch Ice Center that each raised $10,000 for sick children.
"We do a lot of charity games for the local area and we always bring [the officers] in to be a part of it," Cokinos said. "It breeds a lot of good will in the community to have them in the building."
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.