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Teams face off April 23 in Can-Am Cup

This month will mark the second time for the 552nd ACW Canadian Detachment to meet their American 552nd counterparts on the ice. American team captain Jim Behn, left, and Canadian team captain James McCarrron will lead the head to head hockey clash for the second annual 552nd ACW Can-Am Cup. (Air Force photo by John Stuart)

This month will mark the second time for the 552nd ACW Canadian Detachment to meet their American 552nd counterparts on the ice. American team captain Jim Behn, left, and Canadian team captain James McCarrron will lead the head to head hockey clash for the second annual 552nd ACW Can-Am Cup. (Air Force photo by John Stuart)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Cheers erupted in the Tacoma, Wash., restaurant as a raucous gaggle of Airmen reveled in the glory of victory.

It was Feb. 28 and Canada had just won gold against the United States in the ice hockey final at the Vancouver Olympics.

The celebrating Airmen -- part of the 552nd Air Control Wing Canadian Detachment at Tinker -- had been in Washington and British Columbia, supporting the Olympics on AWACS missions throughout the games. Their uproarious cheers contrasted with those of their more stoic American Airmen counterparts who also permeated the scene.

It was the last night before the Canadian and American Airmen flew back to Tinker following their Pacific Northwest TDY. The Great White North win never tasted so sweet and Canada had claimed the day with the golden finish in a game hockey fans won't soon forget.

But here at Tinker there's another Canadian-American rivalry heating up that has yet to be decided.

On April 23, hockey players from the 552nd ACW will take the ice in Oklahoma City for a game of their own. Although they rub shoulders daily as fellow warfighters with a common mission, they'll go head to head that day with Maple Leaf-clad jerseys on one side and the Red, White and Blue hockeyeurs on the other.

It's the second annual 552nd ACW Can-Am Cup, and to the victor goes the spoils. Or at least some hefty bragging rights for the next year.

For the 30 years that the 552nd ACW Canadian Detachment has called Tinker home, they had never played their American co-workers in a hockey match.

Last year that all changed.

Spurred on by a passion for the sport and interest in furthering 552nd camaraderie, several Airmen took it upon themselves to organize a little hockey match. These Airmen were Canadian Jim McCarron, Derrick Iwanenko and Jim Behn.

But by the time the puck struck ice for the official face off May 15, 2009, that little match was a bigger deal than they'd expected. With the wing leadership coming out to support the game, the three Airmen realized they were on to a good thing.

This year is no different, and the Canadians are looking to make a stand, following their 5-4 loss last year. With resounding support from the 552nd wing leadership, this year's Can-Am Cup will face off at 6 p.m. April 23 at the Blazers Ice Center in Oklahoma City, located at I-240 and I-35. Admission is free.

The game will be a family friendly atmosphere and 552nd ACW Commander Col. Pat Hoffman encouraged Airmen to come out with their families to enjoy the now-annual event. Building on last year's success, the game organizers are hoping even more people from across the base will attend the bout.

"We're trying to get people to come out number one and show support for our partnership with the Canadians, and number two just enjoy a sport they don't see a lot of in Oklahoma that we're all really passionate about," Behn said.

Building from the Olympic rivalry in February, Airmen within the 552nd ACW are enthusiastic about the game.

"There's definitely friendly banter going on," Behn said. "This year with the Olympics and us taking part in the Olympics it's raised a lot more of the friendly back and forth."

"It was great to have (Colonel Hoffman) out there and supporting the game," Behn said of last year's match. "It legitimized our game to the wing and basically communicated that this is something that supports and celebrates our Canadian-American partnership."

Lt. Col. Henrik Smith, 552nd ACW Canadian Detachment commander, and Col. Scott Forest, 552nd ACW vice commander, attended last year and will be in attendance on April 23 as well.