USA Hockey Magazine

November 2012

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BY JESS MYERS The Relationships Forged Between Coaches And Players At Service Academies Stand Even The Toughest Tests Of Time T hockey team had a trying season a year ago, winning just four games, and ending the year on an eight- game losing streak. But even the most painful on-ice loss is nothing compared to the phone call that Army coach Brian Riley knows could come at any moment. In addition to being students and hockey players, the men who don skates and sweaters at Army, Air Force and Navy are soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, respectively. As such, in times like these when our nation is at war, they know that part of their job is to go into harm's way. During the summer, Coach Riley received one of those calls. Maj. Thomas Kennedy, who once skated for the Black Knights and had worked with the program for years as an officer representative, was the victim of a suicide bombing while serving in Afghanistan. At just 35, Kennedy left behind a wife and young twins. "It's my biggest fear," Riley admitted. he U.S. Military Academy's "To get that call is just numbing. His parents are the best people. His wife, his twins. To see that pain is just awful." And yet, coaches like Riley and Frank Serratore at Air Force know that when recruiting a player to come to a service academy, the knowledge that their skaters may one day trade their shoulder pads and hockey sticks for body armor and a weapon is a very real part of the equation. And the player who truly thrives in the academy setting is the one who accepts and embraces that reality. 24 Five years removed from his time on campus in West Point, N.Y., and his time on the ice as captain of the Black Knights, Chase Podsiad spent 12 months leading a platoon in Afghanistan and is now in Texas training National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who are about to ship out for the Middle East. With the Army rank of captain as a brigade engineer, he's become an expert in some very dangerous work that is vital to the American mission there – things like clearing explosives, opening routes and construction. "I wanted to be a leader of men. That's one reason I joined," said Podsiad, who still plays pick-up hockey once a week at a rink in El Paso. "I knew I might be in harm's way, but who better than me? It was a great experience to be a platoon leader, to help our country, and to play a role." It's that drive and attitude that the service academy coaches see when looking for the right kind of person, and player, to spend a decade wearing a uniform and serving their country, first on the ice and then, often, on the battlefield. "At West Point, in Colorado Springs or in Annapolis, being a hockey player at a service academy and preparing for a career of military service are two things that really go hand in hand, as hockey truly is one of the great 'warrior' sports," said Patrick Murray, director of hockey operations at the U.S. Naval Academy. again and again Navy has a successful club hockey program, playing at the most competitive non-varsity level. NOVEMBER 11 IS VETERAN'S DAY, A DAY TO PAY TRIBUTE When the United States armed forces go to war, the involvement level of the three service academies varies due to their differing missions. Conflicts at sea primarily involve the Navy, with the Marines often heading into a hot zone first. Ground-based operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan have primarily involved Army troops on the ground, with Air Force personnel providing support from above as needed. But despite their different missions and their natural rivalries when they face off on the ice, differences are quickly forgotten when the news of a tragic loss like that of Kennedy reaches the hockey offices in New York, Maryland and Colorado. "It's TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE SERVED AND ARE SERVING IN THE U.S. MILITARY. NOVEMBER.2012 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM hear of one of your service academy mates who has served and not returned," said Serratore, whose daughter is a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy. gut-wrenching to

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