GLENDALE, Ariz. -- No one has to explain to Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett what it's like to fight a forest fire.
As a teenager, Tippett was part of a crew that was dropped out of helicopters and into fires that threatened northern Saskatchewan. The memories and the feelings from those years, once awakened, come roaring back.
"It gives you the ultimate respect for fire and how hard it is to contain," Tippett said. "It's a hard job that has to be done, and firefighters are something that's near and dear to my heart."
On June, 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew from Prescott, Ariz., raced into the flames to fight a raging forest fire and attempt to save the small town of Yarnell, Ariz. A change in wind direction and speed allowed the fire to surround and trap the crew; 19 members of the team, most in their early 20s with young families, died.
The Coyotes will join what has been a long and continuous show of support for the "Yarnell 19" on Wednesday when they stage an intrasquad game in conjunction with the city of Glendale at Jobing.com Arena. Tickets will be priced at $5, with all proceeds from the night going directly to the families of the firefighters.
All the players, led by captain Shane Doan (who has worn No. 19 for his entire NHL career) will wear special No. 19 tribute jerseys for warm-ups and then autograph them for an auction in held to raise additional funds. The proceeds from the 50/50 raffle held that night as well as lapel pins sold by Glendale firefighters also will benefit the families of the tragedy.
"You see firefighters put themselves in harm's way so often, especially the guys who fight the Arizona forest fires because it's so hot and the forest is so dry," Doan said. "They always seem to come out of it OK. When this happened and so many of them from one crew gave their lives and died together, it was incredibly heartbreaking."
The Coyotes' ownership group also has announced it will match all proceeds raised from the evening to double the donation given the families of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots.
"You think about those families left behind and how their husbands and fathers sacrificed themselves to save lives and property of so many people," Doan said. "Anything we can do, small as it is, is an honor and a privilege."
It will be another night of player evaluation for the coaching staff as the countdown to the Oct. 3 season-opener against the New York Rangers continues. But there also will be a special feeling in the air for what is being accomplished off the ice.
"You look at those young men and what a hard job that is, trying to help our communities and keep people safe," Tippett said. "You're talking about heroes, and when you suffer a loss like this it's not a matter of whether or not you'll help, it's only how much can you do to help.
"I'm very glad and proud that we're able to put something together and help these families."
Fans are also encouraged to donate online at http://coyotes.auction-bid.org/ or by texting "Coyotes" to 68494.
Author: Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent
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