Healing through Hockey: The Flyers and Warriors are setting the bar to help disabled Veterans

There is a bond between those who serve in the armed forces. An unspeakable bond. Throw in combat deployments and you find that some veterans become closer to their brothers & sisters in arms than their own families. It makes sense when you think of it, these brave men and women shared a period of time under the most stressful, dangerous situations. They have seen just what man is capable of doing to another man. To combat the violence and horrors witnessed, it is this bond and often a warped sense of humor that helps theses heroes heal. When veterans leave the service and leave that bond, a piece of them is missing.

The military is a unique way of life that never really leaves you. Even those peacetime veterans still miss that camaraderie between their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. So even after being away from the military for however many years, that camaraderie, humor, endless ball-busting, etc… is something that is missing in your life. Enter groups such as the Flyers Warriors.

The Beginning

It all started when a Marine wanted to play hockey. Rick Stabeno was looking to get on the ice after he finished his time in service. According to team captain Jim Young, Stabeno contacted the Flyers around October of 2018.

“Rick (Stabeno) happened to have the first meeting with the Flyers back in, I believe it was October of 2018. Okay, that was before any of us had anything to do with it. He put together a real nice presentation, brought it to the Flyers community development team with Rob Baer, Jason Pasta, and Brad Marsh as well as I think I believe “Hound” (Bob Kelly) was there.” Young stated. “…he (Stabeno) came in and he brought the idea of disabled veterans playing hockey. And it’s been something that’s been going on since about 2007 nationwide, and the Flyers just jumped on there. They loved the idea.”

Enter Head Coach Brad Marsh

From the beginning, Marsh was involved. The director of Community Relations and Flyers Alumni president was all in. He has helped develop a program that is the gold standard for Warrior programs across the NHL.

According to Young: “The thing about Brad Marsh is and when you really get to know him… he puts his heart and soul into everything he does. Every single thing if he commits to something he’s on it and that is makes so much sense with the style of play that he had when he played professionally, even through juniors with the London Knights. Every day, every shift, he was heart and soul into it. “

Announcing the Team

After a couple of learn-to-skates that were organized by Marsh, the Flyers introduced the Flyers Warriors on February 21, 2019. The veterans were brought into the Flyers dressing room at the Wells Fargo Center where Marsh made the announcement. Just like that, a family was formed.

“…the actual announcement in February, February 20, I believe it was, um, I’m sitting there on the wall. I’m walking into the Flyer’s locker room. There’s Brian Propp. Paul Holmgren, you know, Brad Marsh of course is there. We’ve got the hound, we’ve got all these people on like, this is amazing,” Young stated.

Part of the Organization

The Flyers continued to offer the Warriors a chance at being part of the organization. They attended a training camp that coincided with the Flyers training camp. They were invited to the Flyers Alumni Golf tournament, which brought another good story from Young:

“Timmy Kerr, of course, is my favorite player of all time, and at the Flyers alumni tournament, I didn’t have the gumption to go up and say hi to him. I kind of like, shied away like a little kid.”

In case you’re keeping track, a combat Marine didn’t have the stones to say hi to, or ask Tim Kerr for an autograph.

Vegas Champions and Beyond

In October, the Warriors traveled to Vegas to take part in the Warrior Classic. There they faced five fellow warrior teams, beating them all. As the news covered the team and word around the veteran community spread, more veterans joined the team. Coach Marsh now has two teams and plans on taking both to Vegas to defend their crown.

Before Vegas, and if the pandemic lifts, the Warriors will host a tournament at the end of August. Until that time that they can practice again, Coach Marsh has been hosting three zoom meetings a week so the team can stick together and remain close. One of the meetings is a Sunday workout which is run by Marsh’s daughter Madeline.

Marsh has created a family-like atmosphere that the team just connects with. From planning summer barbecues, doing warrior workouts together, and warrior wives holding events, Marsh is clearly setting the gold standard for other NHL Warrior teams to follow.

Mandatory Credit – Flyers Warriors Facebook

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