Player on the Louisiana Warriors, the state’s newest hockey team, like to win and the team has had some early success. But organizers had an ulterior motive for starting the team and they say the benefits have been priceless.
The team was started by US Marine Corps Corporal Tyler Brown and Kevin Boggs as a way to give veterans a healthy outlet to deal with disabilities and be a part of the community.
“Me and Boggs were just sitting around kind of tossing around the idea over a couple of beers and next thing we know it spread by word of mouth and we had a team,” Brown said.
The Warriors play in a league that consists of other teams of disabled veterans from across the country. They recently participated in a tournament in Dallas, where they won the championship.
Despite the win and the noble cause, it hasn’t been easy to keep the team financially viable.
Ice hockey is one of the most expensive sports to play, with basic equipment costing around $ 600. On top of that, teams have to pay for ice time to have a place to practice.
According to Brown, everyone on the team pays out of pocket to play pick up hockey at Planet Ice just to have some practice.
“It has been extremely difficult to get ice time,” Brown said. “You have to pay to play unfortunately and since we don’t have a lot of funding, we work with what we can.”
Army Sergeant First Class Andrew Lopez is a father of three, which comes with their own expenses. But he said he doesn’t mind paying to play hockey because the benefits are priceless.
“This means so much to us I don’t care how much it will cost us out of our pockets,” Lopez said. “If we have to pay our way, that’s fine, because having this team for guys to have a healthy outlet is priceless.”
The Warriors do not offer veterans just a hockey team to play on, they help players on the team get therapy help for mental or physical issues.
Brown said the Warriors have a player from Michigan on the team who when he first arrived didn’t really know anyone.
“He battled a lot of demons,” Brown said. “He said it himself because of this team he said ‘This is the first time I’ve had friends that I can sit down and talk to in 10 years since I left the Marine Corps.’ ”
Brown said this team is a band of brothers who know and understand each other. Lopez shared that sentiment and said the team provides veterans with a healthy outlet to transition back into civilian life.
“Guys deal with PTSD in different ways; some drink, some do drugs and things like that, ”Lopez said. “But when you’re out gliding on that ice you feel different and you feel good.”
The Warriors have big games coming up soon, too. The team is scheduled to make a trip to Detroit in the fall to compete for the national championship.
Brown said the team has set up a Venmo account in case there are folks in the community who want to help.
The account can be found at louisianawarriorhockey.com is on the team’s Facebook page. Brown said people can donate as much as they would like to the team’s Venmo to help them get things like gear, pay for travel or tournament fees.