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AFTAC Hockey takes trophy at charity match

Traveling Challenge Cup trophy earned by members of the Athletes for Teamwork and Charity (AFTAC) based at Patrick AFB, Fla., after their match with the Tampa Bay Fire Fighters.  AFTAC won the game 9-7, with all proceeds going to Camp Hopetake, a sleepaway camp for children with burn injuries.   (Courtesy photo)

Traveling Challenge Cup trophy earned by members of the Athletes for Teamwork and Charity (AFTAC) based at Patrick AFB, Fla., after their match with the Tampa Bay Fire Fighters. AFTAC won the game 9-7, with all proceeds going to Camp Hopetake, a sleepaway camp for children with burn injuries. (Courtesy photo)

Players from Athletes for Teamwork and Charity (AFTAC) and Tampa Bay Fire Fighters (TBFF) pose for a group photo after the two teams competed in a charity match to raise funds for Camp Hopetake, a sleepaway camp for children who have survived severe burns.  (Courtesy photo)

Players from Athletes for Teamwork and Charity (AFTAC) and Tampa Bay Fire Fighters (TBFF) pose for a group photo after the two teams competed in a charity match to raise funds for Camp Hopetake, a sleepaway camp for children who have survived severe burns. (Courtesy photo)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Players from the Athletes for Teamwork and Charity Hockey Club competed against the Tampa Bay Firefighters Aug. 25 to raise money for adolescent burn victims and walked away with the coveted Traveling Challenge Cup trophy.

The AFTAC Hockey Club, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization, faced off against firemen from the greater Tampa area for the fourth time in as many years to support TBFF’s adopted charity, Camp Hopetake – a sleepaway summer camp for children ages 5-17 who have survived burn injuries.

From the opening faceoff to the final buzzer, it was a see-saw scoring game, with AFTAC tallying the first goal. Quickly, TBFF fought back to take the lead. The second period saw end-to-end action and the fans were energized. As the teams entered the third period with Tampa up 7-6, AFTAC surged ahead, shutting down the firefighters’ vaunted offense and won the game, 9-7.

“By far, TBFF is the best team we’ve ever skated against, and this was probably the best game we’ve ever played as a team,” said Bill Hungate, team captain. “I’m so proud of our effort on and off the ice, especially when the outcome benefits children.”

His players had nothing but praise for Hungate’s motivational speech that propelled them toward victory.

“In between the second and third periods when we were down by two, Bill got us fired up by saying, ‘We’ve already won this game, guys – they just don’t know it yet.’ I took those words to heart and we went out there and gave it our all!” said center Mike Nolan. “I could not have asked for a better way to kick off the season.”

The matchup was an ‘across-the-board’ charitable event, with referees offering their services for free, discounted ice time at the rink, and the challenge cup donated by a local vendor. Between ticket sales and direct donations, the teams raised more than $1,500 to benefit TBFF’s chosen charity.

“Camp Hopetake provides a safe, comfortable, supportive environment for kids who have been through some pretty traumatic circumstances,” said defenseman Paul Bertrand. “The word ‘Hopetake’ is the Seminole Indian word for children, and many of us on the team are parents ourselves, so we take the game pretty seriously when we know the money raised goes to such a great cause.”

TBFF is supported by the Tampa Bay Lightning, a National Hockey League team that has authorized the use of its trademark lightning bolt in the TBFF logo. Members of the Lightning organization were on hand at the game to show support for their community team and were impressed with what they saw.

“The Lightning guys approached me after the game to say they are definitely interested in supporting future events between AFTAC and TBFF, which is a huge compliment to us as a team,” said Hungate. “I mean, some of the guys on TBFF have professional minor league hockey experience, and knowing we can impress pros from the NHL is pretty humbling. We’re looking forward to more matches with this outstanding club.”