Call it hockey therapy: veterans coming together to help each other through the sport they love. The Minnesota Warriors hockey team, a team held together through shared experiences of battle and the camaraderie it creates, faced off against a group of local hockey players in Moorhead.
According to veteransinc.org,
-1 in 10 veterans is disabled
-19% of Iraq veterans report a mental health problem
-11% of Afghanistan veterans report a mental health problem
PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are issues as common as the skates, the sticks and the pads disabled veterans use as part of the Minnesota Warriors.
“The best thing about it was the fact that I was with a team when I was overseas. Those guys had my back, you know, I could rely on them and when you come home you're kind of by yourself,” explained Stephen Major. Major, Captain of the team, spent 22 months on deployment during the height of the Iraq conflict.
"That first moment in the locker room a light went off inside me. For all that time that I had been out of all the psychologists that I had talked with and I kept telling them I didn't have PTSD, I don't have it, I don't have it, in 30 seconds I knew I had it,” said Chris Price. Price serves the MN Warriors as the organization President.
The shared experiences of war is almost exclusively the only criteria to joining this regiment. Those experiences span a no-mans-land from Vietnam to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. But between the blue lines and behind the net is a place where these veterans can find comfort.
"The Minnesota Warriors are at the moment 74 veterans with service connected disabilities and we all play hockey,” explained Price.
The program began four years ago as a way to help veterans re-adjust to civilian life.
"It was difficult for me, I went through a lot of problems some ups and downs and when I came to the Warriors all of us had been through the same thing,” said Major.
It's a vaccine you can't find at any doctor's office: veterans helping veterans through ‘hockey therapy'.
“The doctors don't necessarily understand what we go through. They went to college, they are very smart, they know book-wise what's going on. But they weren't there. As where everyone that's here on the team, we've all been somewhere,” explained Major.
On the ice or in the locker room, just like it says on their website, “This is more than just hockey…This is home.”
The team's website is at mnwarriors.com. Click the link to find more information about the team and to view their upcoming schedule.