The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals 5-0 Monday night, but that isn’t the only heroic feat to be celebrated from that NHL playoff game.
During the game, the Hurricanes took some time to honor Army Capt. Jacob Riffe, who recently received the Soldier’s Medal for saving the lives of two people in a burning vehicle in April 2018.
“I’m a very humble person, so it was a lot to take in,” Riffe told Army Times. “To get that level of support and appreciation was really humbling. I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Riffe is a 29-year-old operations officer with the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. He received the Soldier’s Medal ― the Army’s highest non-combat medal for valor — during a March 22 ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He earned the medal for saving an elderly man and his caregiver from a nasty car wreck while he was off duty, which is why the Hurricanes decided to make him their “Hero of the Game.”
“He’s a serviceman from our state of North Carolina, served our country twice in Afghanistan,” said Jon Chase, the Hurricanes’ vice president of community outreach. “When he’s not even at work, he saves two lives. That’s an American hero right there. We [were] honored to have him here with us tonight.”
Chase said the Hurricanes’ Hero of the Game is always a military member, first responder or educator from North Carolina.
“Our goal with the Hero of the Game is that we look to honor a serviceman or servicewoman who represents their country proudly,” he said. “And when we do that, we want to make sure that it’s going to be a positive and uplifting experience for them.”
That’s certainly how Riffe was feeling the morning after the game. He was delighted to see the reverence the crowd showed not just for his good deed, but for the country as a whole.
“There is still a level of patriotism despite what’s going on in the world, whatever divide there is,” he said. “It’s great to see sports bring everyone together. It’s good to see that there’s still a level of love for the American flag.”
This also happened to be Riffe’s first National Hockey League game, and he said he was impressed with how endearingly raucous the Hurricanes’ playoff atmosphere was.
Overall, Riffe said, he felt welcomed and appreciated by Hurricanes fans.
“It was good to see there’s still a lot of support for the military,” he said. “They were just happy I was there. I couldn’t have asked for more.”