GREECE, NY (WROC) — Firefighter Michael Stoerger with the Ridge Road Fire District wanted to do something more for his community back in 2017. That year, he started a charity hockey team with fellow first responders — choosing to partner with the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. 

“For the coalition, we’ve raised approximately $25,000, just from playing a couple of hockey games once a year,” he said.

The connection between Stoerger and cancer goes back to his aunt when he was 13. 

“(It) left an impact on me, seeing the look on my father’s face when he would get the bad news, and it kind of stuck with me for a while,” he said.

The response from supporters and sponsors at games has grown tremendously since 2017 with local businesses chipping in with raffle items. 

“…that’s where 80% of our money comes from at these events,” he said.

Battalion Chief Brian Gebo says what Stoerger is doing, is all part of the first responder spirit. 

“We like to help people, not only on emergency calls— but finding some other kind of initiative or something we can do for our community,” he said.

First responders at charity hockey game

Stoerger said the ‘Pink Ladies’ who attend the games have a special place. They are the fighters or survivors who join them at the Winter Classic to drop the puck and kick off the event. 

“This special moment has turned a simple hockey game into something truly meaningful. After my second Winter Classic I was stopped by Barb Schmitt. Barb was unable to attend the first Winter Classic as she was going through treatments. She told me she circled that year’s Winter Classic on her calendar and used it as motivation to fight so she could attend. I look back on those words often for motivation to make the Winter Classic what it is today,” said Stoerger.

Stoerger says the games also give cancer fighters and survivors motivation, and that in turn, drives him. And the ranks are growing. Next year is going to be even bigger. 

“Now we’re looking at 7 teams of first responders. We have the State Troopers, town police, the Sheriff has two different teams, the Rochester Police Department, the Rochester Fire Department, and us,” he said.