×

Sled Hockey Gives Everyone a Chance to Hit the Ice



Thursday, April 02, 2015
West Lebanon — Afflicted by various ailments, many of the players on the Ice Vets sled hockey team utilize some form of service or guidance to help excel in their day-to-day lives. Yet when it comes time to hit the ice, these guys clearly don’t need assistance.

Players from the Tuck School of Business found that out Saturday during an 8-4 Ice Vets exhibition win at Campion Rink. The Vets led 6-0 after one period before easing up down the stretch.

The contest, organized by Tuck student player Patrick Turevon and Ice Vet Louisa Howard, of Meriden, allowed free admission, but donations were accepted to help benefit the Ice Vets, who pay for some of their own equipment and other costs. Bi-weekly clinics held at Campion this winter came thanks to donated ice time, Howard said.

To be fair, it was the first time many of Tuck’s players — an eight- player roster also made up primarily of U.S. Military veterans — had tried sled hockey, a sport involving plenty of balance and upper body strength.

Jake Lavigne, a non-veteran “volunteer” Ice Vets player, and Dawn DiCecco, of Shelburne, Vt., both had hat tricks. Lavigne — a 19-year-old from Berlin, Vt., with a knack for playing the body and a wicked slap shot — and DiCecco typically play for teams close to their homes. They traveled to Campion on Saturday to fill in for Ice Vets who couldn’t be present.

Though she admires her team’s spunk, Howard prefers the Ice Vets go easy on those unfamiliar with the game. When DiCecco scored her second goal of the first period, she began to gently admonish her teammates.

“Don’t score so many goals,” she pleaded. “We don’t want to blow them out.”

That proved inevitable. Many of Tuck’s players are inexperienced even to stand-up hockey, skating for the school’s “Tripods” team. That nickname comes from the notion that players need their sticks to maintain balance on the ice.

Balancing on hockey sleds can be even tougher. Plastic seats, about 3½ feet in length, attach to a pair of blades, set varying widths apart. The closer the blades are situated, the greater the potential for speed, but the more difficult it is to balance.

“It was impossible,” said Turevon, a former U.S. Marine who helped recruit fellow student veterans for the event. “For us on the Tripod team, regular hockey is hard enough. (The Ice Vets) were a lot quicker than us, that’s for sure.”

They’ve had plenty of practice. The team started four years ago as a club and partner of White River Junction’s VA Medical Center, and has been adding members and participating in more events in recent years. The Ice Vets became a registered nonprofit last September and are now a member of USA Hockey, granting them insurance coverage and access to borrowed equipment, among other benefits.

“We’ve come a long way,” Howard said. “We’ve got nice jerseys now, we’re in USA Hockey. We’ve got 10 regular players, but we’re always looking for new members.”

The Ice Vets participate in a number of tournaments and clinics over the winter, including a strong showing at last month’s Vermont State Sled Hockey tourney in South Burlington. Until recently, they met every other week for winter practices at Campion, and every January they stage a demo as part of the New England Handicapped Sports Association Winter Sports Clinic at Mount Sunapee Resort.

“That’s something we really look forward to,” Howard said of the Sunapee gala that featured hundreds of adaptive-sports athletes. “We meet so many people there. It’s a great way to socialize.”

That social element is one of the primary benefits for the Ice Vets, who are captained by single-leg amputee and former U.S. Marine David Santamore, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident after leaving the military, but has hearing loss stemming from live combat .

A Barre, Vt.-area resident, Santamore commutes an hour, one way, for events at Campion in order to help sled hockey grow in the region. He’s also involved with the Montpelier-based Central Vermont Pioneers and is helping another team start up in Lyndonville, Vt.

“It allows us to get back into sports,” Santamore said . “A lot of these guys might have been pretty good athletes before they got hurt, aces in high school or their rec leagues and things like that, and then they get hurt and they think they’re never going to be able to play sports again. Well, now they can.

“Another important part of this is that when you leave the military, you leave behind a sense of camaraderie and inclusion. Three things in life make life wonderful, and that’s having a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and a sense of being loved. I think we get all three of those here.”

Vietnam veteran Kevin Donlon, of Lyme, agreed.

“I don’t know much about playing hockey, but you come out here, and these guys just inspire you,” he said. “It’s something you can wake up in the morning and look forward to.”

Donations collected at Saturday’s exhibition raised $360 to help purchase ice time, sleds and other gear. Turevon and Howard plan to make it an annual event, possibly to coincide with Tuck’s Veterans Day celebrations in November.

“That would give us a wider audience,” Howard said.

Tuck player and Army veteran Nick Stachler would be happy to contribute again. He scored twice Saturday late in the game against Ice Vets goalie Ed Trost, though he suspects the soft-looking scores may not have been thoroughly challenged.

“It was a blast,” Stachler said. “It’s probably the hardest sport I’ve ever played, but (the Ice Vets) were great teachers out there. They showed us how it’s done.”



To learn more about the Ice Vets or to donate, visit icevetsadaptivesports.org. Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.