Buffalo (WKBW) Without a doubt, Buffalo is a hockey town. But for veterans who can no longer play hockey in its traditional form because of an injury while serving overseas, there is an answer, one that could soon be taken to the national level.
Sled hockey is a sport that continues to grow, especially among wounded veterans. And on Monday, members of the USA Sled Hockey team held a clinic to teach the game to those injured in the line of duty.
"We feel it's very important to help these men and women get back on the ice, enjoy the sport, have fun playing hockey. And the socialization involved with this is just incredible," Norm Page of USA Hockey said.
Organizers say sled hockey is not only a recreational therapy that is good for the body, but also for the mind, as it offers veterans competition, camaraderie, and normalcy.
"It helps them to adjust because they may be coming back with a significant injury. This helps them to adjust a little bit better, gives them the opportunity to realize that they can do more than what they've done before," Jason Petti of VA of Western New York said.
And as the popularity of sled hockey continues to grow among veterans, the ultimate dream is an all veteran sled hockey league. Now that dream is one step closer to becoming a reality. Justin Brown from the National Office of Veterans Affairs visited Monday's clinic, with plans to grow the program on a national level.
"The next step would be, as I get to talk to some of these guys, we would like to pilot this. Probably use this program here in Buffalo as a pilot program for the rest of the VA Medical Centers throughout the rest of the United States," Brown said.
But for the veterans themselves, it is all about sticks, pucks, and having a good time.
"I'm enjoying it, it's pretty fun. It definitely builds up morale, so it's definitely important," current serviceman Joshua Paul said.
"This is awesome. It's great. It's hard on me, but for the younger people it's great," Vietnam veteran Ted Wilkinson added.