GLENDALE, AZ - On the ice Wednesday, Coyotes' head coach Dave Tippett was focused on what's straight ahead - the upcoming NHL season, but his thoughts were also on fallen firefighters.
In the back of his mind, he hits rewind. And continues to remember Arizona's fallen Hotshots .
"It really is gut-wrenching," he said Wednesday afternoon.
Tippett feels a special connection to the 19 fallen heroes who lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill Fire.
At just 18 years old, he worked as a wild land firefighter in Canada.
"We were the first ones we went to. We were the first ones there," he said.
Well before he became coach of the Coyotes, before his three decades in hockey as a player and coach, Tippett would helicopter into fast growing fires rushing to put out the flames.
"There were some tough times. Some times some of the conditions you get into are not very pretty and lots of smoke, soot, dirt, water and mud... but it was good work for a couple of years," Tippett said.
He's paid close attention to the tragic events and says he can relate to how quickly things can go bad.
"I recognize how something like this could happen so quick. There are scenarios you're out there where it is a dangerous situation and sometimes the elements can be very cruel," he said.
Proceeds from Wednesday's game, and the sale of special warm-ups with patches dedicated to the Granite Mountain Hotshots will go toward firefighters' families.
"Anytime you can help out like this, it makes you feel good about what you can do," Tippett said.
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