Defending the Blue Line is the brainchild of First Sgt. Shane Hudella (retired). “In 2008 I was lucky enough to meet Minnesota Wild players Derek Boogaard and Brent Burns. They wanted to help, but there was nothing in place,” said Hudella, a retired Minnesota Army National Guard member. “There were no other organizations that helped military families with being involved in hockey,”
“There is a lot of stress put on children when a parent goes away to serve their deployment. They can become withdrawn, depressed and sometimes experience behavioral issues. With hockey, they can become engaged with other kids and involved in the community. It helps them become active and helps keep them healthy,” said Hudella.
In the spring of 2014, DTBL was awarded a $15,000 grant from The USA Hockey Foundation. “The grant is huge. The toughest thing to come by is cash. This will directly help 90 kids receive scholarships to play hockey,” said Hudella.
Two such kids are Sgt 1st Class Wade Scott’s sons Brenden and Liam, ages 14 and 12 (pictured below). A 13-year veteran, Scott was wounded by six bullets in Afghanistan in 2011.
“The scholarships that we have received from DTBL make it easier to play. When you’re gone overseas, you worry about them being taken care of. These incredibly generous people help take the edge off,” said Scott.
Scott’s oldest son Brenden describes hockey as having created “a lot of friendships. It helps me be more active and to get out of the house. When I’m on the ice, I don’t worry or stress out as much.”
“Hockey is more than just a sport. It binds us together as a family,” said the elder Scott, who, without a doubt, has been helped in more ways than one by the generosity of not only DTBL, but also by donors to the Foundation.
Their skates may move a little slower than they did nearly 42 years ago in Sapporo, Japan, and there’s probably more silver and white in their hair, but talk to any member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, and they instantly go back to that time like it happened just yesterday.
“I can still hear the crunch of the snow from our early morning runs around the Olympic Village and playing in those games,” said former defenseman Tom Mellor, a Rhode Island native. “What an experience it all was – just a bunch of amateur hockey players going out to take on the world one game at a time.”
An improbable run to the silver medal started with an upset of Czechoslovakia that some compared to the U.S.’s wins over the Soviet Union in the 1960 and 1980 Olympic Games. Team member and Minnesota native Craig Sarner credits the intense team bond to helping lift Team USA to its success that year.
U.S. Head Coach Murray Williamson demanded that the team stick together right away, beginning with practices and tryouts that began months prior to the Olympic Games. Sarner and Mellor both note that, “everyone had one another’s backs” and “it became one of our biggest and most important families.”
And it’s a family that hasn’t drifted, even though states and careers now separate them. The team chemistry still carries on today with the majority of the players that donned the Red, White and Blue all those years ago.
“The medal was important,” said Sarner. “But the friendships we developed and the lifelong bond we have is the biggest part of it all. We just enjoy the heck out of being together, and it was that chemistry that helped us prove that will does beat skill sometimes.”
After the Olympic Games, most of the team, which included the likes of a then 16-year-old Mark Howe, Henry Boucha and Mike “Lefty” Curran, went on to some sort of professional hockey career, still staying in touch every year via email and phone calls and trips all across the U.S. Sarner, Mellor and the rest of the squad get together frequently. Their last trip was to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the summer of 2012. Mellor said the team already has plans to meet up again this year, a reunion that everyone looks forward to.
The conversation is not always focused solely on hockey. Sarner is still involved as a scout for the United States Hockey League and North American Hockey League. Mellor hung up the skates and moved on to “life after hockey.”
They also update the hockey family on each player’s personal family.
“I’m a new grandpa with a granddaughter, Eve, so I am boring the guys with photos and information about her constantly,” said Sarner, whose silver-plated medal hangs in Eve’s room. “So I know they’re tiring of it, but we all update on family life and just everything that’s going on with one another. Never a lack of stories, some true, some fabricated, when this group gets together.”
Stories will be shared by the 1972 alums and their extended USA Hockey family for years to come.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to play with and meet than that team,” said Mellor. “Them and really everyone involved in the USA Hockey organization, from the 1980 team, and beyond, it’s neat to be a part of something like that – to be a part of that family.”
Tag(s): Grant Stories