USA hockey at Kettler gives kids reason to smile
It was a simple but moving gesture.
Following Tuesday’s unveiling of Team USA’s Olympic jerseys, each of the 48 players invited to the orientation camp walked across the Kettler ice and shook hands with the Wounded Warrior sled hockey players that had just finished a hard-hitting scrimmage in front of a standing-room only crowd.
“As a player I get to play hockey,” said Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown. “But they’re at a whole different level. People say a guy plays like a warrior, bur listening to their stories it puts into perspective that we’re not real heroes.”
During their run to the 2010 silver medal in Vancouver, Team USA invited members of the U.S. military to join them on their journey. They ate with them, rode buses with them and sat in the locker room with them. And through it all they shared their own stories.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” said Senators right wing Bobby Ryan. “For those guys to come with us and be there for us was very meaningful. It makes you appreciate the sacrifice and honor that goes into wearing the red, white and blue. The stories they told that come from behind closed doors is something I’ll never ever forget.”
Adam Devine, 23, and Hans Blum, 32, were among the Wounded Warriors who took part in Tuesday’s scrimmage. Both lost their legs in explosions while fighting for their country and were introduced to sled hockey after their injuries.
Devine, a Marine from Illinois, lost both his legs nearly two years ago in an explosion. He said he’s learned to take something positive out of every situation and hopes Team USA can do the same.
“All I can say is no matter how badly you’re injured you can find a way to play,” he said. “I never thought I could do this. Somebody came up and asked me if I played hockey and I said, ‘I did.’ And now I can. I never get down about anything because there’s always an upside to all situations.”
Team USA goaltender Craig Anderson said there is a lot to be learned from the stories he’s heard from the military members that gave players an inside look at the challenges they face.
“Those guys that go to battle, battle for their lives,” Anderson said. “If we make a mistake or have a bad play it might be a loss. Those guys have a mistake and they don’t come home.
“The way they mentally get themselves ready for battle is something we can take. Yeah, we’re not going to die on the battlefield, but if we prepare ourselves the way we’re supposed to we give ourselves an opportunity to win.
“They’re all the best at what they do and when they come together somebody’s got to take a back seat to somebody else and if they don’t, they don’t live. It’s a great message we can learn from and take it into this tournament.”