Coast Guard, Milwaukee Admirals score goal with developing partnership

Three playes from the Milwaukee Admiral hockey team join Coast Guard crews for training during their 'Day int he Life' program. Coast Guard crews have been building a local relationship with the hockey team over the past few years. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Three playes from the Milwaukee Admiral hockey team join Coast Guard crews for training during their ‘Day in the Life’ program. Coast Guard crews have been building a local relationship with the hockey team over the past few years. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf

With a name like “Admirals,” it seems only natural that the popular American Hockey League team in Milwaukee would forge a relationship with the Coast Guard in that city. And that’s exactly what has developed during the past few years thanks to Sector Lake Michigan’s community outreach efforts.

Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Dillon at Sector Lake Michigan has been instrumental in the Coast Guard partnering with the Admirals. Several years ago, Dillon was contacted by the Admirals’ front office to discuss a “Salute to the Coast Guard” hockey game.

“The ‘Salute to the Coast Guard’ game was scheduled in March of 2013. While planning the game, we came up with the idea of also using it as a way to reach to the Milwaukee area about boating safety. With the help of the Admirals’ Hockey team, Coast Guard Auxiliary and Sector Lake Michigan we were able to do just that,” said Dillon.

The response by both parties was very positive. This will be the third year that the Admirals, the minor league affiliate to the Nashville Predators of the NHL, pay tribute and salute the Coast Guard during a home game.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“We initially reached out to the area recruiters about the use of signage at our games and as a way to get to know each other,” said Jon Greenberg, the Admirals’ president and CEO. “The following year, Admiral Parks attended the game with members of the local Coast Guard units, and we continue to build each year.”

During the game, Coast Guard members from Sector Lake Michigan, Station Milwaukee and local Auxiliary flotillas talk about safe boating tips, while a recruiter is available to answer questions about the missions of the Coast Guard and how to join our service. During the breaks in the game, Admirals hockey players also provide safety tips as Coast Guard videos play on the big screen. Coast Guard members sing the National Anthem, present colors, drop the ceremonial first puck, participate in various on-ice activities, and ride the Zamboni as it resurfaces the ice between periods.

This year, Dillon and the Admirals’ marketing department went one step further in their developing partnership when three players visited the Sector and Station Milwaukee as part of the team’s “A Day in the Life” video production. Following their team practice on Oct. 21, Joe Piskula, captain, and Mark Van Guilder and Triston Grant, assistant captains, shucked their shoulder pads, hockey pants and jerseys for mustang survival suits as they got underway with a boat crew aboard a 45-foot response boat.

Players from the Milwaukee Admirals join Coast Guard crews and experience man-overboard training. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Players from the Milwaukee Admirals join Coast Guard crews and experience man-overboard training. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

After a safety brief by Petty Officer 2nd Class Trap Woody, the coxswain of the afternoon’s crew, the three teammates headed out onto Lake Michigan where they were quickly introduced to 5-foot waves being churned by a stiff northeast wind – a sharp contrast from the smooth, perfectly flat, and calm frozen water over which the players are accustomed to gracefully gliding each day at ridiculously high rates of speed.

When the crew returned inside the breakwall, safe from the rough seas, the players had the opportunity to take turns at the helm of the response boat, while the others got a chance to meet “Oscar” and participate in man overboard drills. While Woody highlighted the demands of operating the boat, Seaman Colin Beres led the way on deck, explaining what to do when someone falls overboard.

“It’s important to yell load and clear what side of the boat the person has fallen so that the Coxswain knows which way to turn the boat,” said Beres. “Also, stay focused on the victim and the position at all times.”

Soon after, Oscar was tossed over the rail and Grant was yelling at the top of his lungs as if he were contesting a bad call by a referee. Van Guilder responded by turning the vessel toward the victim and Piskula prepared to toss over the life ring to Oscar, now resembling someone laid out on the ice after a heavy check into the boards. As the boat came around and drew close enough to the floating dummy, both athletes plucked it out of the water and brought it onboard. Mission accomplished.

The players also took turns with the heaving line, trying earnestly to land the red ball inside a life ring tossed out and away from the boat.

Throughout the afternoon, the three prospective NHL players and team leaders learned about, and experienced firsthand, the life of a Coast Guard crewmember. They were thoroughly impressed with the young crew from Station Milwaukee and gained a high level of respect for the profession.

“What an experience for them,” said Greenberg. “They came back with an enhanced respect for the Coast Guard. We had 18 other guys who were envious of those three players.”

The Admirals and the Coast Guard are now looking forward to the date early next year when both parties team up once again to publicly display their partnership.

Coast Guard crewmembers from local units visit Milwaukee Admirals players following practice. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard crewmembers from local units visit Milwaukee Admirals players following practice. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

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