The annual Battle for the Badges charity hockey game took on additional meaning Wednesday night following the murder of two Edmonton police officers.
The game at Grant Fuhr Arena in Spruce Grove is a fundraiser for Legacy Place Society, an Alberta-based organization that provides support for first responders and military personnel seeking mental health help.
The event saw the Parkland Athletic Club U18AA team take on a team made up of police officers from the Parkland County RCMP and members of the Spruce Grove Fire Department (SGFD).
The game on Thursday was also an opportunity to honour Constables Travis Jordan and Brett Ryan, who were killed in the line of duty last week.
The two young officers were responding to a domestic violence call at the Baywood Apartments complex just off Groat Road and 114 Avenue.
The officers met the 16-year-old shooter’s mom outside. When they went up to the suite she lived with a 73-year-old man and their son, the teen open fired on the officers. Neither had a chance to even draw their own weapons.
“It’s been a tough week. It really shows what we actually go through behind the scenes, and that can be any one of us,” Battle for the Badges organizer Miles Valiquette said.
“It can be any single first responder: it can EMT, it can be a firefighter that shows up to that door first.”
Before the game, a tribute was held for the two officers.
Ryan lived in community west of Edmonton. In his spare time, the 30-year-old was a minor hockey official with the Spruce Grove Minor Hockey Association and last year, even officiated last year’s Battle for the Badges game.
His wife Ashley Ryan is also a first responder: a paramedic who was on shift and at the Royal Alexandra Hospital when her husband was brought in after being shot.
Wearing an Edmonton Police Service jacket, she dropped the puck during the ceremonial faceoff.
Valiquette, a close friend of Ryan’s, said the fallen officer and former paramedic was special.
“He’s a community person. He was courageous. He knew what he wanted,” Valiquette said.
“He was the first person to stand up for his friends and talking to all of our friends, he was the nicest person in our friend group.
“He was the person to give back to everybody.”
The deaths of the two men has had a profound impact on the entire policing and emergency services community.
“It definitely hits hard when its so close to home here,” RCMP Cpl. Andrew Baron said. Ryan was about to become a father for the first time — his wife is due this summer.
“It was somebody that had a young family and you can put yourself in their shoes.”
“A lot of our officers knew the members that were killed in Edmonton and have some close connections there, so it really does hit us all very hard,” RCMP Insp. Kevin McGillivary added.
As he copes with the tragedy, Valiquette is thankful for the opportunity to honour his friend.
“It sucks that it has to be this way and that Brett has to be recognized this way, but I think people are going to remember Brett for the good and see what he did do and bring to the community,” he said.
A regimental funeral will be held for the two officers at Rogers Place on Monday, March 27. Global News will carry it live on television, radio and online.