GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Three games into their inaugural season, the Arizona Hotshots are already retiring a jersey number. One week after the Coyotes retired Shane Doan’s famed number ‘19’, the Hotshots will do the same – albeit for far different reasons.
The Hotshots Sunday will host a Public Safety Salute ceremony when the team hosts the Atlanta Legends at 6 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium. At halftime, the team will retire the number 19 to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30, 2013. The Hotshots and the Alliance of American Football have made it their mission to honor the team’s namesake as well as all the first responders.
“When we started this team back in August, this night was really in our windshield,” said team president Scott Brubaker. “We wanted to truly honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots who passed away in 2013, and by retiring the number 19, that will live on with us forever.”
All present uniformed first responders will be allowed into the game for free Sunday and will be escorted to the field for a pregame ceremony. The Hotshot organization will honor those public safety officers who lost their lives this past year. Families of those lost will also be on the field for the pregame ceremony.
“Every now and then we need to take a moment to realize all that we sometimes take for granted – and that’s our safety,” said head coach Rick Neuheisel. “I was so happy when I heard what our team name was going to be and who it was going to honor – and now the fact that we’re going to have this kind of celebration and honoring at Sun Devil Stadium, I just think it’s really cool.”
Suzanne Wagner, the mother of fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot Garrett Zuppiger, will handle the ceremonial coin toss while the entire Granite Mountain Hotshot team and their attending families will be honored at halftime.
“We want to make sure everybody knows that when we took on this name, we did it in a way to help shed light on the great heroism that we see from these folks,” said Neuheisel. “We want to honor them in the best possible way that we can.”
The Hotshots will retire the number 19 at halftime and unveil it on the Southeast Elevator Tower.
“This is super important to us,” said Brubaker. “It will truly be an honoring of the [Granite Mountain] Hotshots and all first responders who day in and day put their lives on the line for us, and we’re excited to do it.”
This Sunday night will have special meaning to Hotshot long snapper and Valley native Nick Dooley. His father John is a Phoenix firefighter.
“With my dad being a Phoenix firefighter, it’s really cool having this logo on the helmet,” said Dooley. “I think it’s great that we are honoring these brave men and women because they are the true Hotshots. We are just happy to represent them on the field.”
Nick Dooley knows with John Dooley and so many firefighters and first responders in attendance, it will be an emotional night in Tempe.
“Definitely,” said Dooley. “[The Yarnell Hill Fire] is a historic event, a sad historic event. It’s something that we’ll never forget and we’ll always remember them for their bravery.”