On Wednesday night, just hours after voting on a new budget bill, several congressmen swapped their dress shoes for a pair of skates. Once again, it’s on! The seventh annual Congressional Hockey Challenge!
And as is tradition, instead of the worn-out Beltway meme of pitting Democrats against Republicans (aren’t we all tired of that), it’s Lawmakers battling Lobbyists for a year of bragging rights and to raise money for a good cause. The night’s proceeds go to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club — a national youth hockey program for inner-city children.
Another tradition making its way on the ice? The professional assist. Peter Bondra, who played 14 seasons for the Washington Capitals and scored 503 goals in his NHL career, skated (half-speed, at best) for the Lawmakers again this year.
“We don’t think that’s quite fair,” said Ian Bennitt, a lobbyist for the Shipbuilders Council of America.
Bondra said before the game that last year he took it easy early on before his teammates urged him to put his NHL skill to use. “The guys want to go hard,” the five-time NHL all-star said. “I admire it.”
Despite the noisy crowd, made up mostly of staffers, at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the game’s first two periods were as eventful as an hour of daytime television on C-SPAN. The night finally heated up when Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) put the Lawmakers up 3-0 early in the third period off of a slick two-on-one feed from Bondra. After giving up two late goals to the Lobbyists, the Lawmakers escaped with a 3-2 win.
“I loved every minute of it,” said rookie Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who grew up playing hockey. “All I can tell you is that I will be working all summer and I’m going to be back.”