In hockey the term "policing the game" usually refers to an enforcer who protects a younger or smaller teammate, but it takes on a whole new meaning during the Orland Park and Oak Lawn charity hockey game.
Police and fire departments in the two communities used to be rivals — within the town and between the towns — in competitions called Guns & Hoses. Now, the departments team up to face the top players from the other town to raise money for Special Olympics Illinois and Oak Lawn Rotary's 9/11 memorial.
"We already had this little rivalry between police and fire since firefighters are a lot more laid back and whenever we talk to the police they always say, 'I should have checked the firefighter box,'" said Oak Lawn firefighter Paul Chocola. "Now that we are on a team together, we are ready to come out and beat Orland Park this year after we lost to them at their rink last year."
They will take to the Oak Lawn Ice Arena, 9320 S. Kenton Ave., on Saturday at 7 p.m.
"Our team was itching to play so we called up Oak Lawn for a rematch and offered to give them home ice advantage," said Orland Park Police officer Andy Boblak. "Ultimately the game is all about having fun while raising money for Special Olympics Illinois and Oak Lawn's 9/11 charity."
Last year, Orland Park won 5-2.
"The hockey community is a very special community with players who are always willing to help and the camaraderie on the ice is the same camaraderie we see on the job," Boblak said. "We are very competitive and we want to win, but this is all about giving back to the community that has always supported our police and fire department."
After last year's defeat, Chocola believes the ice and a new addition to the team's roster will help even the series.
"This is the year to do it. We got some skaters and a lot bigger ice surface," Chocola said. "We have a dark horse in the system that played junior hockey and college hockey. and I hope they are able to keep up with us."
Oak Lawn's secret weapon is Brian Harrison, son of retired Oak Lawn Police officer John Harrison, who played junior hockey in the United States Hockey League and for Illinois State University. Harrison played AAA hockey in Illinois prior to playing for the Indiana Ice in the top junior league in the country.
This year, the ceremonial puck drop will be by Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury, who has invited students from Park Lawn School, a nonprofit for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
"We can be really competitive and everyone wants to win, but when it comes down to it, we are all on the same team," Chocola said. "Our rivalry with Orland Park is nothing more than a chance to get on the ice, have some fun and raise money for two great charities."