Camaraderie after Combat: How sled hockey is helping veterans transition back home

in honor of Veterans Day we decided we’d want to introduce me to a local veteran we recently met during a team-building experience playing that that you see right there sled hockey and that’s a bunch of our team members on there that is the Houston life team struggling I know struggling out on the ice alongside some extremely talented athletes and let me tell you sled hockey there was lots of laughs on the ice and we were there it is truly no joke it’s hockey but with modified equipment that allows people of all abilities to play including veterans who have lost a limb while serving our country that’s right and you see these gentlemen next to us right now joining us now to explain more about the game Andy top end team captain and US Army veteran and Jim O’Neill founder of Texas sled hockey so Jim you founded this and you have such a great story we heard a bit of it on the ice this is a way to rehabilitate and you know get mind off things seen in the battlefield right it is when Annie could speak more to that but for me I’m a USA Hockey referee and I’ve just had so many friends and social activities and you know certainly exercise as being a ref and I thought you know just because somebody has a disability why should they not have the same opportunity so we started star skaters which has two programs one is the skate therapy and the other is sled hockey and Andy is the captain and Andy first of all thank you so much for your service they ultimate sacrifice for for all of us truly again a veteran in the US Army and tell us your story what happened you were serving yeah I was I was in the second Infantry Division I was a military policeman assigned to them and I got hurt in Iraq in 2009 so nine years coming up here in December and I was kind of lost for a little bit trying to figure out what to do with my I got kind of chubby you know didn’t know what to do and found sled hockey tried it and loved it you know was hockey ever in your blood not at all no so what I mean how did that transition come about because it’s not a natural sport that somebody could just get out on the ice right yeah and especially in Houston it’s not very very heard of so much as you know hockey player hockey players where you from it’s gonna be Minnesota or somewhere that’s right you know so I met Jim at a disabled pher kind of thing and he was like hey come on come on out and try this hockey stuff and I said I don’t think I want to do that and I eventually took him up on it came out and loved it and having haven’t stopped since Annie explained to us when you’ve been on the battlefield and you’ve had an injury that’s a life-changing injust injury you’re explaining that for you you gain some weight depression sort of was yes part of your world what kind of a difference did doing this have on your life huge I mean just the team the team aspect of it kind of lowers me particularly and a lot of veterans also to the to the hockey just lifestyle you know because the it’s everybody’s on the same team everybody’s working for the same goal you can kind of trash-talk each other and that’s kind of the same as it was in the military you know Josh and each other and good-natured you know but it’s it kind of helped me out of a really really dark place that I was getting into thankfully didn’t get too far into but just just being able to be part of that team again and feel like I meant something to someone and it was it was cool in addition to the physical exercise and then yeah it helped me helped me lose weight too and we’ve seen some video yes we can we’ve seen video of you on the ice in front of you is the sled and I want to bring people up to date so we know specifically of what they’re talking about you lost your leg when your the Humvee you were in hidden ie D in Iraq in 2009 and then this is how you play hockey this is your sled yes yeah so I sit in here I sit in the in this part here it’s got all these straps that keep me in there tight because you want it basically like a skate would be on your foot right you want it as tight as possible so that it does what you want it to do when you want it to do it so kind of straps around my legs and stuff I strap my foot in over here and then we use modified hockey sticks to push us around they have these really pointy pick parts that stick into the ice – movie around and you hold it up here to move around and then drop down here if you want to you know move with the puck and stuff and it’s so interesting to watch I mean Jim members of the general public because you guys are playing there at Memorial City Mall can they come and watch you guys practice yes every Saturday we’re on the ice at 10:30 and unfortunately because Isis like gold in Houston there’s only a handful of Isis rings you can skate on we we only have half ice once a week but you know we’re always looking for new opportunities and we’re having like we just had a sled hockey weekend two weekends ago and he got back from San Antonio so we’re always looking for ways to get more ice time and if if there’s any veterans watching they would like to try this I don’t want us to leave before we plug a veteran’s sled hockey clinic that we have tentatively scheduled for the 26th of January but they contact us will confirm that so we’re looking to book some of that golden ice time for that weekend so if you’ve got somebody that they think may be because of a disability they can’t do this and he’s living proof that all you need is will to get out there and give it a try and you don’t have to know how to play hockey you don’t need to know the rules and he had none of those skills and now he’s been he’s competed in fact as I said last weekend he was with some of the guys from Team USA that won back-to-back tobacco medals so right last weekend and he was playing with some of the best players in the world well and we just saw that great team pick of all of you guys you’re looking good and I think it’s so great that you’re out on the ice thanks for having us out there it was an incredible experience it really was yes did awesome not too bad awesome might be a little hard strong well you know it’s by it’s as they say it’s not how many times you fall down and so many times you get up and I think the one time you fell down you got right back up oh okay thanks to you Andy for yeah thank you thank you

Antonio Breitenberg

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