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Team Niagara plays a game of epic proportions

  • Published
  • By SrA Peter Dean
  • 107th AW
In what is being dubbed as the game of the year, the Buffalo Sabres Alumni delivered a thrashing Team Niagara would not soon forget. On April 5, Team Niagara composed of members from the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing and members from the Air Force Reserve's 914th Airlift Wing, experienced a once in a life time opportunity to play if you will, a hockey game with their hockey icons.
According to Capt. Elaine Nowak, 107th Public Affairs Office, her husband Capt. Peter Nowak, 107th Intel Office, after hearing the news that he was on the team stated "this is the best day of my life." "Well after my marriage and the news of my new baby," he added.
"The good thing is they spend their time protecting the country, allowing us to practice and play," said Rob Ray Buffalo Sabres Alumni. "We would prefer they be good at what they do off the ice and we'll take care of business on the ice," he added.
More than 700 spectators torn between their loyalty to their fellow Airmen and their loyalty to their hometown hockey team packed into the Dwyer Arena, Niagara University for what was an unforgettable game. Regardless of whom they cheered for and which team won, the real winners were the Airmen from both the 107th and the 914th airlift wings. All proceeds from the ticket sales benefited the family support groups from both units. FRG uses the money raised to send care packages to deployed Airmen, set up events and functions that ease the burden placed on families while their family member is deployed and events that promote overall moral throughout the base.
"We were very pleased with the turnout, said Jeanne Goetze, 107th Family Support Coordinator. "We raised a considerable amount of money," she added.
Through the good will of a very generous sponsor this was all possible. Sometime ago Karen and her husband Dr. Hratch Karamanoukian of The Vein Treatment Center, Williamsville, NY approached the base with the Idea of a fund raiser to help local deployed Airmen. The Karamanoukian's covered the costs from the ice time at NU to the chicken barbecue on base. Which enabled a large percentage of the ticket sale proceeds to go directly to FRG.
"We cannot say thank you enough," said Lt. Col. Deanna Miller, 107th Executive Officer. "This has been an enormous morale boost throughout the base," she added.
"You guy's risk your lives for us," said Karen Karamanoukian. "This is the least we could do," she added.
Following the fund raiser game, the alumni were welcomed on base where they experienced firsthand the mission of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. Once on base the festivities began, in a show of appreciation the alumni were treated to a chicken barbecue, a personalized tour of a hangar and the opportunity to sit at the helm of a C-130. Pilots, engineers and loadmasters were on hand to answer any questions the alumni could possible think of. In turn the alumni returned the gesture and offered members and their families' autographs and posed for photos.
"We can't thank the Sabres Alumni enough," said Col. James Atkinson, 107th AW Maintenance Group Commander. "This was a great experience for all involved," he added.
Although a considerable amount of money was raised, just south of eight grand to be split between the two units, the moral boost throughout the base was priceless. Some members had the opportunity to share ice time with the alumni, all members and their families had the opportunity to meet and greet the alumni and all members and their families had the opportunity to take home a personalized memento. As a token of the unit's appreciation Col. Patrick Ginavan, 107th AW Commander, presented Karen Karamanoukian and all attending Buffalo Sabres Alumni with a personalized framed photo representing the Niagara Air Reserve Station.
Events such as these will only make the association between the 107th and the 914th that much stronger. When Airmen play well together it builds a bond that carries over into the work place, enabling the hurdles that lay ahead to be conquered.