Coast Guard Cutters hit the ice

The members of the Coast Guard Cutters hockey team in South Portland, Maine pose for a photo after a game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. Team members are comprised of Coast Guard active duty, auxiliary, friends and spouses. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ayla Kelley.

The members of the Coast Guard Cutters hockey team in South Portland, Maine pose for a photo after a game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. Team members are comprised of Coast Guard active duty, auxiliary, friends and spouses. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Ayla Kelley.

Most every unit in the Coast Guard has morale functions. They can be Coast Guard day picnics, fishing trips, or a sports team comprised of its members. At the Coast Guard base in South Portland, Maine, there is a hockey team known as the Coast Guard Cutters. For six months out of the year the team gets together on the ice for a game of intense exercise and fun.

The Coast Guard Cutters is a team comprised of members of the Coast Guard family including active, auxiliary, and some spouses and friends. They play in division three in the Greater Portland Industrial Hockey League (GPIHL), which reorganized in 2008. The league aims to “craft an adult hockey experience that promotes the sport of hockey by providing an environment that stimulates a fun, enjoyable, and competitive experience for all skill levels,” according to the leagues website.

The Coast Guard Cutters were first formed in 2005 and played till 2007. The team gets its name from the original Coast Guard hockey team that played during World War II out of the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Md. The South Portland team reformed with the GPIHL in 2009 due to an increased interest at the units and is now in their second season.

“Being stationed in the Northeast, hockey is very much part of the local culture,” said the team’s captain, Cmdr. Brian Downey. “Many Coasties grew up playing and showed interest in playing in the industrial league. We thought it would be a good morale enhancing activity that would bring positive attention to the Coast Guard.”

Because the team is open to all members of the Coast Guard family, there are no formal try-outs.

“We match up players on each line to balance skill levels,” said Downey. “Our philosophy is that as a morale function, it is more important to provide the opportunity to be on the team than it is to have a winning season.”

The season runs from October to March with one game a week on either Sunday or Tuesday nights. Practice is done mostly in the beginning of the season and on voluntary bases for each member. The jerseys and socks for the team were purchased with morale funds, but each player is responsible for the fees due to the league.

First season member Justin Coleman, a second class petty officer at Sector Northern New England, said it’s a lot of fun learning a new sport and loves playing on the team.

The Coast Guard Cutters plays eight other teams in their division.

“The teams we play are sponsored by local businesses which comprise the GPIHL,” Downey said. “The competition is pretty high with most players being very seasoned and have often played together on the same team for years.”

Frank Orr, an auxiliarist, has played in adult hockey leagues and has been on the Coast Guard Cutters team for the past two years. He said he enjoys learning and teaching new things to those of different skill levels.

What is so special about the Coast Guard Cutters is what they are doing during the day before a game. Unlike many of the players of the opposing teams, this team’s members are carrying out Coast Guard missions and duties.

“Five hours earlier many [players] were conducting a coastal search and rescue case, organizing an ice breaking evolution or dispatching oil spill responders to protect the environment,” said Downey. “We have different challenges than other teams as we have players who may be deployed or underway or standing command center duty. Other teams don’t have the same challenges.”

When these men take the ice, they bring with them the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. While they don’t have the best winning record in the league they are still out there giving their all for the love of the game.

“They’re out there for fun and camaraderie” Downey said. “Rest assured though, they play for keeps in their day jobs.”

Recent Posts

Comments are closed.