The 2020 pandemic hit the hockey community hard, and US veterans even harder.
Recreational hockey seasons (called Sessions) in the Dallas/Ft. Worth region were completely frozen with the initial COVID-19 lock-down. The remaining games were later hurriedly scheduled for completion only after area ice rinks began letting players back in. Showers, water dispensers, drinking fountains and social areas had also been closed in some locations, and are still unavailable as of the writing of this article.
“More than half of the veterans surveyed by the Wounded Warrior Project said that their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.”NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden [source]
Teams like the Dallas Warriors, who rely on public and corporate donations to attend regional and national tournaments, were deeply affected by the pandemic as opportunities to partake in national events fell off the calendar. Another thing that fell to the wayside was the corporate funding required to keep the veterans on the ice.
Those veteran groups who are in the habit of training new skaters (such as the Dallas Warriors) sought other options, like bi-weekly coaching for skating fundamentals, team drills and physical fitness. It would not be a stretch to say the veterans who take advantage of these opportunities greatly benefit from the social interaction with their Brothers-and-Sisters of Service.
Once ice rinks reopened, some veteran hockey clubs started, or continued, fielding beer-league teams. Participation in these teams cost the average player several hundred dollars per 12-week session, but gives back in practical way, such as granting game-time to practice the skills they have been fostering.
Dallas Warriors Hockey
Growing the Sport and Touching Lives One Veteran at a Time
One team in particular, the Dallas Warriors ‘E’, an entry-level-league team playing out of Farmers Branch, Texas, had two first-time hockey players during their 2020-2021 Winter session. Watching these players grow in confidence and strength has been a real joy for those who give of their time to these vets.
Post-game locker room chatter is filled with statements like “This is the most fun I’ve ever had”, and “OMG, this game is amazing! I’ll never stop playing for as long as I am able.”
Growing the sport of hockey starts locally, and not just with young people. Sharing your enthusiasm and passion for the game is the most effective way to fan the flames of ice hockey amongst your veteran friends.
There are tools available to help you encourage the veterans in your life. Here in North Texas, there is often some form of jumpstart classes, such as the Dallas Stars Adult Rookie program, which is generally available for a free 5-week class to help get new skaters and hockey players started. Loaner equipment is included, and the classes are on Saturdays! https://www.nhl.com/stars/starcenters/adult-rookies…
This type of course isn’t required to SIGN UP to be a Dallas Warrior – If your application is accepted, the Dallas Warriors will assist you with equipment, ice-time, practices and games, so head over to dallaswarriorshockey.com and sign-up today!
While the pandemic can put a halt to businesses and our ability to explore the world around us, it doesn’t end to the need of our veterans to feel a part of a community, and cannot stop those of us who care about our vets from helping to meet that need.