HALLOWELL — Athletic contests between Cony and Gardiner Area High Schools have become more than just games.

The long-time rivals have added a new dynamic to their competitions in recent years with efforts to raise money for worthy causes and it has been no different in ice hockey.

“It adds more to the rivalry because it’s an opportunity to do something for a cause together while still getting to battle against the team that you have the biggest rivalry against,” Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. “The two school communities come together for one cause and then as soon as they drop the puck you still have the opportunity to play your rival.

“I think that adds respect to the rivalry. You see each other around the rink and it’s not like I hate you, I just really want to beat you. To then have those bragging rights just adds something more special to it.”

In the past the game has generally raised money for a cancer-related charity, however, this year they elected to go in a different direction.

Spearheaded by Cony coach Chad Foye, Saturday’s game helped raise money for the Travis Mills Foundation.

A retired United States Army Staff Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, Mills, a resident of Manchester, lost portions of both his arms and legs from an improvised explosive device while on active duty in Afghanistan. In Sept. of 2013, he founded the nonprofit organization to help wounded and injured veterans and their families.

“Traditionally over the last few years the Cony-Gardiner games have done things to support cancer research and that sort of thing,” Foye said. “This year we just wanted to do something a little bit different. We looked at some things for veterans, called a couple veterans that I knew and people who worked at Togus about foundations.

“The Travis Mills Foundation came up with everybody. It’s something local, it’s something that affects veterans and their families and we just felt that was a really worthy organization.”

For two members of the Cony hockey team, the cause holds a particularly special place.

Assistant coach Chris Buck and his son, Spencer, a senior captain, did not know Mills — who is married to Chris’ niece, Kelsey — too well before his accident but have had the opportunity to get to know him recently.

“He was up here a couple times, but most of the time being in the military and doing all the tours we didn’t really get to see him and know him real good,” Chris Buck said. “Once you meet him, he’s got the biggest heart in the world.”

Added Spencer Buck: “I normally have one of his bracelets on, which is ‘never give up, never quit.’ It pushes me through a lot of things. That whole experience just kind of shows that life’s too short and live it to the fullest, which he does most of the time.”

The Bucks are not the only ones who feel that way. Approximately 90 minutes before Saturday’s contest Mills took some time to speak to each of the teams separately, leaving a lasting impact on the players and the coaching staffs.

“He came in and started cracking jokes at first, which kind of got our attention — it was pretty funny,” Gardiner junior captain Logan Peacock said. “Then he told the story of how he lost his limbs and it kind of brought everyone in awe, because they couldn’t imagine it happening to them.

“Then he started to talk about team work and how sometimes you might have kids on your team that you don’t really care for or they goof around too much, but he said when it comes down to game time you have to have faith in them and rely on them.”

As of Monday afternoon Bank of Maine Ice Vault facility manager Bill Boardman said they were still figuring out just how much money was raised for the Travis Mills Foundation through various raffles during Saturday’s game. More information on Mills and his foundation can be found at www.travismills.org.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley