Matt Ackley, with wife Lauren, and, from left, William, Ashton… (2007 family photo )
The police officers who make up the Maryland Law hockey team play weekend games against fellow officers, military groups or firefighters. This Saturday, the last game of the season, they take to the ice against retired professional players.
In a game organized as a benefit for a fellow officer who was sidelined from the Baltimore County force as a result of line-of-duty injury, Maryland Law will face off against the Washington Capitals Alumni, retirees who can still skate a good game.
"We are not intimidated," said Cpl. Rob Overfield, captain of Maryland Law, who plays center. "This is a charity game."
Overfield, a Baltimore County police detective, has set up the competition to raise money for Matt Ackley, a former detective who has a debilitating neurological condition and can no longer work on the force.
"I have been following his story and I want to help out," Overfield said. "Hockey has never been more popular than now, and it's a good way for us to capitalize on this cause."
Ackley, married and the father of three who range in age from 3 to 11 years, has gone from being healthy and active to coping with chronic pain and loss of movement. In 2007, when he was assigned to the Northpoint Precinct's drug unit, he was injured during a scuffle with an armed drug dealer. Surgeons repaired the initial injury but during his recovery, Ackley, now 34, developed a complication that led to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a painful condition that affects joints, muscles and bones. The disability means he cannot return to the job he loved, Ackley said.
"When the idea for this game was presented to me, I was thrilled," said Ackley. "Police form a brotherhood and go through a lot together. For them to still be thinking about me is amazing."
Although he did not play in the police league, Ackley is an ardent hockey fan and plans to attend the game with his family.
Even though Baltimore is not known as a hockey town, Overfield said he hopes the opportunity to see several big-name players for a $10 entry fee will draw spectators to the Mount Pleasant Arena.
Gary Rissling, a former Capital who now owns two Baltimore-area restaurants, promises spectators and players a spirited match. The alumni players' confidence is somewhat tempered by the age gap and fitness level of their opponents, he said.
"They might be thinking of this as David vs. Goliath, but we are thinking we are the David," Rissling said. "We will get stomped if we don't watch it. Most of us are on the other side of 50, and these guys are young and fit."
Hockey fans should see thrilling ice action from familiar players, Rissling said. Yvon Labre, the first Capital to have his number retired, Gord Lane, a defense star who helped propel the New York Islanders to the Stanley Cup four times, and Peter Bondra, one of the highest-scoring Capitals, should all be crowd-pleasers, he said.
"This is our chance to give back to the community," Rissling said. "That is something of a passion for us, especially when it means giving back to guys who lay their lives on the line every day for all of us."
The event, which will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., will also include a silent auction and several raffles. Attendees could go home with sports memorabilia or tickets to future hockey and baseball games.
Tickets, which are $10 for adults, $5 for children and free to children 5 years and younger, are available at the door to the Mount Pleasant Arena, 6101 Hillen Road. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org.