ARLINGTON, Va. --- Congress doesn't have the best record for wowing large crowds, and last night was no exception as the Lawmakers ice hockey team beat the USA Warriors—a team consisting of wounded and disabled veterans—7-3 in an exhibition game at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex here.
Despite the lopsided score, hundreds of supporters filled the bleacher seats in the Washington Capitals' chilly practice facility to cheer on the Warriors and hobnob with military VIPs.
The USA Warriors and the Lawmakers line up on the ice during the ceremonial puck drop by Gen. Ray Odierno and Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Led by Illinois Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, the Lawmakers glided across the ice to an early 5-0 lead, which was unchallenged until Warrior forward John Bombard scored a goal (with an assist by Mark Stoessel) four and a half minutes into the second period. The crowd cheered and stomped their feet as the Warriors' deficit was cut to 4, however the team would never rebound from the rough start, losing to the Lawmakers for the second year in a row.
Army chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno received a standing ovation as he dropped the ceremonial puck along with the Marine Corps' #2 commander Gen. Joseph Dunford, who both worked the crowd later with handshakes and the occasional military souvenir called a "Challenge Coin."
Staff Sgt. John Houston has a collection of about 30 coins, but the one presented by Dunford is his new favorite.
The USA Warriors and Lawmakers ice hockey teams pose for their official photo before the start of the game.
"This is big medicine," he said. "I've only heard about ... Dunford since I was about knee-high," referring to stories told by his father, a retired lieutenant colonel, who has known Dunford for many decades.
The Warriors raised money through ticket sales and raffle prizes up for auction, including autographed baseballs, a stay at the Gaylord Hotel, jewelry, and an autographed Capitals jersey. Capitals cheerleaders also participated in the night's events, handing out t-shirts and souvenir hockey pucks to the fans in the bleachers.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno speaks with members of the audience during the game.
Odierno greets supporters of the Warriors.