The organizers made sure the injured soldiers were well-equipped to practice and compete. SAME Fort Drum Post and VFW Post 1231 received loaned and donated sports equipment from many organizations who support initiatives dedicated to the disabled and mobility-challenged individuals interested in learning sled hockey. USA Hockey and Mobility Sports loaned eighteen sleds for the soldiers. Seven other sleds were donated by VFW, Fanning Technologies, Alzo Family, Carri-Mor, MAC Sports LTD., Knights of Columbus and SAME. The VFW Post 1231 and SAME Ft. Drum Post provided the team uniforms in desert and green camouflage. The uniforms proudly displayed the wounded warrior logo.
On the first day of the event, the ceremonial puck drop was performed by Tom Coakley. Coakley is a disabled Vietnam veteran who lost his leg in service. After the puck drop, a competitive game ensued between the 10th Mountain Division soldiers and the Syracuse CNY Flyers Sled Hockey Team. The game concluded with a celebratory post-game meal for all the soldiers and volunteers.
On the second day, the program continued with a clinic and game at the State University of New York (SUNY) Canton Ice Arena in Canton. Paul Schaus and John Uplinger, members of the USA National Development Team from Buffalo, N.Y. led the clinic drills. After the clinic, a ceremonious game opening was held. The teams lined up for introductions, following color guards from VFW Post 1231, Canton and from the Golden Knights ROTC program at Clarkson University. The ceremonial drop of the puck, again performed by Tom Coakley, preceded the spirited game between the two teams. Over 500 spectators packed the stands and cheered the men and women of Fort Drum Warriors in Transition Unit (WTU). The wounded soldiers maneuvered the sleds and handled the puck skillfully.
The Wounded Warrior Sled Hockey Clinic and Game also featured a raffle program and a silent auction. The auction consisted of items donated by National Hockey League (NHL) players, local businesses and local college and university teams. The silent auction and 50-50 raffle program raised an additional $4,000. These funds will be used to allow purchase of ice time for wounded soldiers to play sled hocky and to support travel expenses to games and events throughout the Northeast region.
Mark McKenna, Project Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District and SAME Post Secretary was the principal organizer for the event. According to McKenna, the event would not have been possible without the “overwhelming support and generous donations from the entire community.” In addition, the Post received a donation pledge of almost $16,500 to help the WTU wounded soldiers purchase more equipment. “We now have enough funds to purchase 30 sleds that can be used by soldiers to continue activities in this newfound passion.” Other donors included St. Lawrence University, Clarkson University, SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam, Syracuse University and Tony’s Canvas & Leather.
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