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Wounded soldiers will get chance to play sled hockey

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They won’t be racing down the rink on skates, but wounded soldiers from Fort Drum will soon get a chance to experience the thrill of playing ice hockey.

Two sled hockey games are being organized for soldiers who lost limbs and suffered other physical disabilities while serving their country.

Instead of lacing up skates, players will ride in specially made hockey sleds. Wearing full hockey gear, they’ll use small hockey sticks with picks on the bottom to propel themselves down the ice.

Mark J. McKenna, a civil engineer at Fort Drum, is coordinating the games, gathering sponsors and recruiting volunteers to help.

“I think it’s going to be a neat event and a good experience for these soldiers,” Mr. McKenna said. “These guys gave it their all. I think we need to make more people aware of the situation.”

The major sponsors are the Society of American Military Engineers, Fort Drum chapter, and Canton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1231.

The first game is scheduled from 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. March 9 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds Arena, Watertown.

The second event is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 10 at the SUNY Canton rink. A pizza party will follow at the Canton Knights of Columbus, Miner Street.

Several other groups, individuals and businesses have offered to donate or lend equipment and food. So far, enough donations have come forth to purchase six sleds, which cost $550 to $600 each.

An additional 18 sleds will be borrowed from Mobility Sports, an Indiana-based company, and USA Hockey. The Society of American Military Engineers is also supporting the event.

Before the games, a brief clinic will be held to give players a chance to learn how to maneuver the sleds.

Mr. McKenna is working with the Warriors in Transition Unit at Fort Drum to identify 24 men and women who are interested and physically able to participate.

He is also collaborating with the post’s morale, welfare and recreation program.

“We may get soldiers who played hockey growing up and loved it. We could also get some who never played before and want to try it,” Mr. McKenna said. “Many of them will have a lot of upper body strength from using wheelchairs.”

Volunteers are needed to help players get dressed in their hockey gear and assist them getting on and off the ice. As in a regular hockey game, five players and a goalie from each team will be on the ice at a time.

Spectators are welcome to attend the events and Mr. McKenna is hoping for a large turnout. There is no admission fee, but donations will be accepted. A portion of the proceeds will go to the military’s Wounded Warrior Project. A share also will go to purchase additional hockey sleds.

For more information, Mr. McKenna can be reached at 456-9617. Donation checks can be made to Society of American Military Engineers and mailed to SAME, P.O. Box 283, Great Bend, N.Y. 13643.

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