On March 25, a battle will be brewing just off Capitol Hill. The confines will be a bit less formal and quite a bit colder than the participants may be accustomed to. Lawmakers and lobbyists – one a former NHL referee – will face off Wednesday in the seventh annual Congressional Hockey Challenge. Instead of suits and ties, the combatants will be sporting skates and sticks as they take to the ice in the name of charity and good fun.
Former NHL referee Pat Meehan, currently a Congressman from Pennsylvania, will be hitting the ice for the Lawmakers. Meehan worked as an NHL referee from 1979-1983. He went on to law school, eventually becoming the US Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania before heading to the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a great break from all of the tension [at the office],” Meehan told the National Journal. “You go from morning to night in this job. You never really get a break.” When he gets a chance to play hockey, though, “it’s just you and the rink and the other guys. Nobody’s telling you in three minutes you gotta break and go to the next thing. Nobody’s ringing the phone and telling you how you should be acting or voting. It’s all just pure fun.”
Here’s a look back at some highlights from the 2014 game:
Meehan will skate alongside John Katko from New York and Minnesota Congressmen Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer.
“Being from the self-proclaimed ‘Hockey State’,” said Emmer, “I am always looking for an excuse to lace up and get back to my roots, especially when it is for a good cause. I am excited to put politics aside, get back on the ice, and show the younger guys a thing or two.”
“This game helps bring the greatest sport to many who would not otherwise have the chance to play,” said Meehan. “Many great players will someday come from programs like this one, but all players will benefit from the opportunity to learn teamwork, concentration and dedication. I’m proud to be part of a hockey game that supports such a fine cause.”
Special Guests from Canada and the Capitals
The Lawmakers will also be joined by the two Canadians, the Honorable Gord Brown and Rick Dykstra, who are making the trip down from Ottawa to take part.
“The way we all look at it is when we’re on the ice we’re just hockey players, and politics really just doesn’t come into play,” said Representative Larry Bucshon of Indiana. “We’re on the same team trying to win.” While Bucshon will be sidelined with an injury, his team will receive some reinforcements.
Special guests for the event will include former Washington Capitals wingers Peter Bondra and Alan May, along with Joe Bowser and Mark Little from USA Warriors Hockey. Bondra and Little will play with the Lawmakers, while May and Bowser will suit up with the Lobbyists.
The Congressional Officials
Meehan can also likely appreciate those that follow his former vocation – the referees for the event. This year’s Congressional Hockey Challenge will be officiated by Frank Maisano, Mike Jukoski, and Callan Smith.
“This is a great cause and wonderful opportunity to work with Congress, members of the Canadian Parliament and hockey advocates across the political spectrum,” said Maisano. “While we all have political and policy differences, we all come together regarding our love for the game and using it to help kids that don’t have the same playing opportunities we did as kids.”
Hockey and Politics
Meehan credits his time as an official with helping prepare him for the challenging world of politics.
“[My] experience as an official has taught me to make quick decisions during periods of a lot of tension and a lot of excitement and to make those decisions with confidence,” said Meehan. “More importantly, it has helped me stay focused, which is a key ingredient to success in this business – to tune out a lot of the extraneous chatter and keep focused.”
Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer echoed Meehan’s remarks about how hockey helped prepare him for life in the Beltway.
“If you can play in that physical, competitive environment, and succeed and be successful, and be able to keep your head while others cannot, it’s great training for politics,” said Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who played for University of Alaska. “I do think building relationships outside of our jobs like that, whether it’s the hockey game or the basketball game, or the congressional baseball game are positive things to get people to know each other as individuals outside of working on Capitol Hill.”
“It’s going to be pretty interesting, to say the least,” said Representative John Katko from New York, who played club hockey at Niagara University and now coaches his sons’ hockey team. “I had my first practice last week and it took me about a week to recover.”
“I’m like a little kid,” Katko said. “I’m getting all excited about getting out and playing again. It’s all I can think about the last few days. My kids are making fun of me. It’s pretty exciting.”
Schedule of Events and Game Day
On Tuesday, His Excellency Gary Doer, the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman are hosting a Stanley Cup Reception at the Embassy of Canada for the players and sponsors.
On game day, the Stanley Cup will be on Capitol Hill for staff photos, followed by a 1:30 briefing by the Congressional Hockey Caucus on the “The Importance of Hockey in Higher Education.” Attendees include Congressional Hockey Caucus, the NHL, The Washington Capitals, and USA Hockey. Also, two previous scholarship winners are attending to describe the positive impact hockey has had on them, which will show how the event benefits people directly. In its 7 years, the event has raised more than $700,000 for these scholarships.
Tickets, Donations, and Online Auction
Tickets and additional information about the event are available at the Congressional Hockey Challenge website. If you can’t make the game, you can still support the challenge via their online auction.