From the Catbird’s Seat: Wounded Warriors looking to expand hockey family up northThe Minnesota Warriors are a hockey team made up of combat-wounded or disabled veterans, and they are looking to start a team in Northeastern Minnesota.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
“It’s like family.”
Yet, it’s a special kind of family.
The Minnesota Warriors are a hockey team made up of combat-wounded or disabled veterans, and they are looking to start a team in Northeastern Minnesota.
The Warriors were in Cloquet last month to play in a law enforcement tournament and are made up of about 40 players from around the state.
They all have a common bond.
“They’re like family immediately,” Warriors coach Barry Ford said of his players.
Ford, an ex-Marine who served as a machine-gunner in Vietnam, carries a military disability like all of his players. To take part, players must either have a Purple Heart or a military disability of at least 30 percent.
“We have veterans, including two women, and about 20-25 of them are active players,” he said. “Some of them are still on active duty.”
Ford, who also serves as a vice president of youth operations for Minnesota Hockey, has coached the team since its inception just over a year ago.
“Our talents vary,” he said. “Some of our players have no hockey experience. Our players range in age from about 23 to 64 years old. Obviously it’s no-check hockey, and we play games with teams in similar age groups.”
The veterans who suit up have already sacrificed quite a bit.
“We have some with leg problems; we have one player who has only one leg,” Ford said. “He skates with us and it’s great to see. Some of the kids have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and others have headaches or back injuries. But they love to play hockey.”
The team’s crowning moment was a 3-1 win over the other major Wounded Warriors team in Washington, D.C.
“Some of them aren’t in military uniform any more, but the team is all veterans,” Ford said. “They forget whatever struggle they may have when they’re playing. When we came back from Vietnam, we had our struggles but the kids of today have different ones.”
Players only need to supply skates and sticks in order to play.
“The ice is paid for by various organizations,” Ford said. “The NHL has been very good to them. But for us, the camaraderie is great. [The players] keep coming back.”
For more information on the Minnesota Warriors, contact team captain Andy Qualy at 952