The Georgia hockey team spent the weekend of Jan. 15 on the coast, participating in the 23rd annual Enmarket Savannah Hockey Classic, a collegiate hockey tournament hosted by the Savannah Civic Center.
The tournament, which was first held in 1999, pits some of the top hockey clubs in the southeast against one another, all of them competing for the Thrasher Cup, the event’s top prize.
Georgia has won the Cup nine times since the tournament’s inception, the most by any team, though this year, they split their games in the weekend, and placed second in the group.
Prior to the games, the Bulldogs have made a habit of visiting the Memorial Health Children’s Hospital of Savannah, bringing along stylized clothing, miniature hockey sticks, and other presents for the children.
“Part of my philosophy, wherever I go as a coach, is that I want to make sure we’re invested in our local communities,” Camp said. “Obviously, our prime community is Athens, but Savannah has become kind of our secondary city in Georgia.”
COVID-19 restrictions prevented the team from entering the hospital this year, but Head Coach John Camp stands by the importance of the visit.
“The staff really appreciates it,” Camp said. “And I think the parents, more than anything, have a sense of relief that someone’s actually making their kid happy and distracting them from everything else going on.”
The Savannah games were canceled last year due to the pandemic, so many on the team had yet to experience the Savannah weekend, which has become a hallowed tradition for Georgia hockey. As the children looked on from the hospital windows, waving and holding up signs to support the Bulldogs, the coach watched as his first-year players took in the moment.
Camp views the weekend as a milestone for the team, and even includes it as part of his introductory speech to the team.
“I said, ‘I know I can be a bit of a hard guy, but you know, here’s the deal. I get emotional twice a year. Number one: when you graduate, I’m a mess. And when we go to the Children’s Hospital in Savannah, and I walk out, I definitely have the tears flowing,’” Camp said.
After leaving the Children’s Hospital, the team also stopped by the Ronald McDonald House of Savannah, located on the outside perimeter of the hospital’s campus.
The organization, which offers a home for families while children are hospitalized, had been greatly affected by the pandemic, and this visit was eye-opening for the team.
The Ronald McDonald House has several fundraisers throughout the year, but the Bulldogs were particularly interested in the Pop Tabs Donation, which they saw as a way for people to help out, regardless of financial status.
Camp tries to emphasize the importance of helping out in the community, and he believes that the team has received the message.
“Our guys realize that, as a hockey player, they can help bring notice to causes,” said Camp. “Locally, you know, we do that with Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer and with Nuçi’s Space, and then in Savannah, we back the causes with the Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.”
Coming out of the weekend, the hockey team is looking forward to better and brighter. They’ve already secured their spot for the SECHC playoffs in early March, and are currently in a favorable position to qualify for the CHF nationals, following three weeks afterward.