Heartwarming bond

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

John Olson will never forget the silence that blanketed the TV room at his Coquitlam fire hall last week.

At their request, more than a half dozen RCMP officers had gathered there to watch the stirring national memorial for four of their own.

They wanted to be together, to mourn with brothers who know their pain.

The only sounds were those of sniffles.

The only movements were to wipe away tears.

"It was pretty quiet in that room -- there were definitely some watery eyes," said one of three Calgary Roughnecks firefighters.

"They got pretty emotional."

Shortly before tonight's opening faceoff between the Roughnecks and San Jose Stealth, the Saddledome crowd will be asked for a similar moment of silence to pay further tribute to those who serve and protect us.

For many, thoughts will turn to those murdered in Mayerthorpe or the families they left behind. Others will think of those in their community who forever come running when called for help.

A large number of those in the crowd will in fact be our local heroes, who will gain admittance to tonight's game free for simply being there whenever we need them: Firefighters, EMS workers, local police and the RCMP.

For them, it will be another chance to think hard about the ultimate sacrifice people in their line of work have to make all too often.

"It'll definitely be emotional for some people," said Olson, who considers himself extremely lucky not to have lost a station-mate in three years of service.

"It's a part of the job. It's why we're paid well and are so well respected in the community. It's always in the back of your mind that something could happen."

The fact owner Brad Banister is dedicating tonight's game to their noble efforts is a sentiment five active players in particular find rather heartwarming.

Defenceman Rich Catton is one of them.

"It's fitting, especially in Alberta, to be honouring those guys -- they put their life on the line," said the 33-year-old Catton, a sheriff at the Supreme Court in Vancouver. "It'll be a great tribute. I'll be thinking of those guys who lost their lives, especially their families."

As if the Mayerthorpe tragedy didn't hit the father of two -- and every other Canadian -- hard enough, the Riggers' recent addition was further stunned by last week's courtroom drama in Atlanta that saw a prisoner steal a gun to kill four people, including the judge who presided over Dany Heatley's case.

"That hit home right away because it's the same exact job I do every day," said Catton, whose club will also collect money for an RCMP benevolent fund.

"We're all civil servants trying to do our part. All of us are in the same boat. It just shows that anything can happen at any time."

Other Roughnecks who work full time in emergency services include Vancouver firefighters Chris Gill and Craig Gelsvik. Rookie Ryan McNish serves in the military. And while their jobs entail radically different daily routines, Olson says they're inextricably bonded by a goal of protecting the common good.

"There definitely is a brotherhood -- when we're out on the road we wave at each other," said Olson, 25, whose wife Brooke is expecting their first child July 3.

"It's kind of neat to be part of that pretty tight community. It's one of the lures that got me into the business."

It's a bond that grows much like the camaraderie in a dressing room.

"There's definitely a connection, especially with really good teams like the Roughnecks that have accomplished a lot," he said.

"There's this unspoken understanding that you went out and did a great job at what you do."

That very principle will be saluted tonight the best way possible -- together.


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