Congress is no stranger to slashing budgets, holding nominees, boarding flights and fighting — lots and lots of fighting. Such behavior is tolerated — and often applauded — on the Hill. But come Wednesday night, should lawmakers do any slashing, holding, boarding or fighting, they’ll be sent to the penalty box.
Politics may be no-holds barred, but hockey has rules that everyone, members of the legislative branch included, have to follow when they play in the Congressional Hockey Challenge.
The annual event has the Lobbyists facing off against the Lawmakers, a squad headlined by a few congressmen but filled out with current and former aides. The puck drops Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex, the Washington Capitals’ practice facility in Arlington.
For the low price of $10 a ticket, you can hobnob with some of Washington’s most powerful movers and shakers as they try to move and shake on ice without falling down. Now in its 13th year, the Congressional Hockey Challenge is a can’t-miss event for D.C.’s inveterate networkers and fans of rec league sports.
The Lawmakers may have a few no-shows this year because the game is scheduled for Wednesday, which is an early fly-out day for the House. While originally slated to lace up the skates, Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., is skipping this year, while Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., will be a game-time decision.
Even though his title is House majority whip, Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer is more comfortable with a stick in his hand. The former captain of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Division I hockey team may have an easier time checking his opponents Wednesday night than checking some of his more ideological Republican colleagues on any compromise that legislative leadership may try passing later this year. A defenseman, Emmer will attack and block anything that crosses the blue line.
“The Congressional Hockey Challenge is a great opportunity to share our love of the sport with longtime fans and newcomers alike, all while raising money for veteran, youth and women’s hockey programs across the country,” Emmer said in an email. “If Team Lawmakers continue our winning streak against Team Lobbyists, all the better.”
Before they thrash each other on the ice, the two sides engaged in some friendly trash talk.
“The Lawmakers squad is aiming for five straight wins against the Lobbyists. It’s incredible that we get to play the game we love to support great charities dedicated to growing the game of hockey, but it’s even better when we get to lift the trophy at the end of the day,” said Lawmaker Captain Tim Regan, a House senior assistant tally clerk. “Last year’s game was tight until the 3rd period, so we’re hoping to jump to a quicker lead and put them away early.”
“We hope the Lawmakers have enjoyed their run,” said Lobbyist co-captain Nick Lewis, a senior vice president at UPS’ legislative affairs office. “It ends Wednesday night.”
The “D.C.-famous” denizens of the Hill and K-Street will be joined on the ice by some true hockey stars: Organizers expect three Olympians from the U.S. Women’s National Team to join — 2018 gold medalist Haley Skarupa, 2018 gold and 2022 silver medalist Megan Keller and 2022 silver medalist Hayley Scamurra.
The Olympian ringers will be split between the teams, and will represent the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association. The proceeds from the game will help support the PWHPA along with the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, Capital Beltway Warriors Hockey program and the Tampa Warriors Hockey Heals event. The game has raised over $1.2 million for charity since it began in 2009.
“As a former college hockey player, it has been a personal lifelong passion to drive the growth of girls’ and women’s hockey,” said Lobbyist co-captain Michelle MacGregor, a senior strategist at Orrick. “We hope [the Olympians’] presence excites aspiring young female hockey players to attend the game … and cheer on Team Lobbyist!”