By Michael East

In the summer of 2007, when the Saginaw Spirit hockey club approached local police officers and firemen about putting together an annual fundraiser hockey game, Saginaw County law enforcement officers jumped at the opportunity. With that, the Guns-N-Hoses charity hockey game was born.

The first year turned out to be a rousing success for local cops both on and off the ice. Not only did Team Guns (local cops) handily defeat Team Hoses (local firemen), but $2,000 was raised for the Meijer “Shop with a Hero” program.

“Initially, the guys were pumped up to be able to play hockey, have some fun and raise money for such a great cause, said Team Guns Co-Captain Michael East, an officer with the Saginaw Police Department. “Then this year, all of a sudden, the game became more personal and carried more meaning.”

In July 2008, Saginaw Spirit Account Executive Tory Newberry scheduled meetings to start planning the 2008 game. Those meetings were initially pushed back, however, as members of Team Guns were still dealing the recent death of one of their own. The previous month Saginaw Township Police Officer Michael Cohee died unexpectedly when he was accidentally thrown from a golf cart and struck his head. Cohee and Saginaw Township Police Officer Adam Nothelfer had acted as honorary coaches for Team Guns the previous year.

“We knew right away that this year the game would be a tribute to Officer Cohee in some way,” said Newberry. “Then we found out the Saginaw Township Police Department was re-naming its scholarship fund in Mike’s name. We thought that would be a perfect benefactor for proceeds from this year’s game.”

Like many Saginaw Township police officers, Detective Bob Bean, a Team Guns Co-Captain, was close with Officer Cohee. “When Mike passed away we changed the name of our scholarship to the Officer Michael Cohee Scholarship because of Mike’s dedication to law enforcement. He always strived to go above and beyond. He took pride in his work and wanted to be the best cop he could be,” Bean said. “He was one of our finest FTOs and he wanted to teach every new officer the proper way to police Saginaw Township. I still have a hard time talking about Michael. We all miss him every day.”

Bean said a committee will award a $1,000 scholarship annually. Applicants must be in their senior year at a Saginaw County high school, and must be pursuing a career in a criminal justice-related field to be eligible for the scholarship.

On November 8, 2008, after a couple weeks of local media hype and good-natured verbal sparring, Team Guns and Team Hoses met for the second straight year at the Dow Events Center in Saginaw. Team Hoses Captain Dale Fisk, a Saginaw Township firefighter, had even gone so far as to “guarantee” a Team Hoses victory earlier in the week during a live radio interview. Nearly 1,000 tickets were sold for the event. However, an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) game between the Saginaw Spirit and the Soo Greyhounds was scheduled immediately after the Guns-N-Hoses game. Many of the OHL crowd of 4,028 arrived early enough to see part of the Guns-NHoses game and contribute financially to the cause.

The large crowd was treated to a 6-1 Team Guns victory as Todd Mapes, an MSP sergeant and Saginaw Township resident, scored four goals to lead the way for the winners. One of Mapes’s goals came on a third-period penalty shot awarded after Bean received an accidental high stick in the mouth, which resulted in a couple dozen stitches and two broken teeth. “It was still worth it,” a bloody mouthed Bean said after the victory. “I know Michael Cohee would have taken a bullet for me at any point in his career. I don’t mind giving a couple teeth and a pint of blood to support a cause in Michael’s name.”

Local businesses were also heavily involved in the event. “Without the Saginaw Spirit and the help of companies like Mike’s Wrecker, Gohm Restoration, Meijer, Beef O-Brady’s and a bunch of others, great events like this would never happen,” said East. “This is wonderful night for the players and the community, but mostly it’s great way to help local charities. And in the end, that’s what cops and firemen are supposed to do – help people.”

Mike’s Wrecker Service (Team Guns) and Gohm Restoration (Team Hoses) provided financial sponsorship for their respective teams. In the end more than $2,500 was raised for the Michael Cohee Scholarship Fund. Plans for the 2009 game are already in the works.