A game of hockey doesn’t seem like the place to find peace from the everyday stresses of being a soldier, but to hear some U.S. Army soldiers tell it, it is, and one nonprofit is helping soldiers play game after game. Hockey Saves, started earlier this year by Jacqueline Andrews as a one-time donation of ice time at the local rink near Fort Benning, Ga., has helped soldiers find peace on the ice. The origins of Hockey Saves began when Andrews decided to buy ice time for a group of soldiers as a way to thank them for their service. That decision started something that she couldn’t have possibly imagined, and has rapidly gained a following in the hockey community.
“The hockey world is a big family.”
– Jacqueline Andrews
Anyone who spends time around the world of hockey knows that it can be an expensive sport. One hour of ice time for a group of soldiers at the Columbus Ice Rink in Georgia costs $180. “Hockey is an expensive sport between gear and ice time,” said Kidd. Hockey Saves helps by providing free ice time to soldiers on weekends. They host scrimmages at the Columbus Ice Rink, where soldiers compete against each other. Rank isn’t going to help you avoid a check either. “There’s no rank,” said Army Reservist Seth Bierman, “there’s no job. You’re either a forward or defenseman.”
As word about what Hockey Saves was up to spread through social media, donations started pouring in. NHL players such as Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Ryan Jones of the Edmonton Oilers have donated equipment to Hockey Saves. The Detroit Red Wings partnered with Hockey Saves to send some soldiers to a game in Hockey Town. Not just the NHL is chipping in: The University of Georgia Ice Dogs club hockey team and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team have donated ice time and equipment. “Anything we can do to offset that cost to the soldiers is a good thing,” added Kidd.
“That’s one of the greatest gifts – playing with guys who share your love of your nation and your sport.”
Hockey, and the camaraderie that comes with it, serves as a way to for soldiers to blow off steam after a long week. “That’s one of the greatest gifts – playing with guys who share your love of your nation and your sport,” said Chris Kidd, the S3 operations officer for the 198th Infantry Brigade. It’s also therapeutic for the soldiers who participate and see the stresses of the week melt away on the ice. “Whenever I feel stressed, I prefer that physical exertion. It’s also a team sport, so you may find guys who are going through the same thing you are,” added Kidd. Monday and the start of another long workweek seem like the distant future on the ice on Saturdays. “You don’t have to think about work on Monday,” Bierman said. “It keeps your morale high and boosts your motivation.”
People want to thank soldiers for their service and sacrifices, but oftentimes don’t know how. Hockey Saves, which started out as a thank you, is just one way to do that. “If we have programs like Hockey Saves, that’s the way for them to reach out and say thank you,” said Bierman. Hockey Saves plans to continue expanding, with the aim of helping as many service members play hockey as possible. The will of hockey players and service members make them hard to bet against. If you are interested in helping to be part of the effort to expand Hockey Saves, more information can be found on their website, which was designed by a soldier.