Hockey team scores big on national stage
January 13, 2011
- "We wanted to represent this community, to let people know that it's a good community with more than just military Families"
- JTF Blast is working with the APG Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports staff to start an installation hockey team
- Participants include service members, police officers and firefighters
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - For the love of the game, a group of locals hit the ice, forming a hockey team that would go head-to-head against other players in the area.
They played, and played and played. Until they boosted themselves onto a wider stage.
Joint Task Force (JTF) Blast, made up of Soldiers, civilians and contractors from Aberdeen Proving Ground, recently nabbed the national title during the 8th Annual Hockey for Heroes / Armed Services Classic, held Nov 11 to 14 in Las Vegas.
Maj. Steven Tingley and Maj. Alexander Babington, of the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, formed the team in the spring and they played in the adult hockey league's Independent Division at the Ice World rink in neighboring Abingdon.
"Most of us had kids who play and we thought it would be great to get a military team together," said Tingley.
JTF Blast is now working closely with the APG Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports staff to start an installation hockey team.
"More importantly, we wanted to represent this community, to let people know that it's a good community with more than just military families," Babington said. "We very much wanted to be affiliated with APG."
Babington said although most of the team members are lifelong hockey players, many of them had not played for some time, and it showed early on.
"I played 10 years ago in college and my mind and body knew what I was supposed to do but my legs weren't doing it," he said.
Despite a string of losses, the team kept their heads held high and their sticks to the ice, and eventually they gelled, said Babington.
"We started getting our legs back and scoring close games and then winning some."
With the start of the winter season in October, the team went undefeated through six games.
They purchased their own uniforms and began gaining more of a reputation, and players. Buoyed by their success, they decided to enter the Las Vegas tournament.
Babington said participants in the tournament are service members, police officers and firefighters, thus the name Hockey For Heroes.
"We were just playing at our level and we did well," he said.
"We're all lifelong hockey fans," Tingley added. "I played on a pond in my front yard since I was a kid. This is a way for us to have fun playing the game we love and represent APG in a positive way at the same time. We're hoping APG hockey fans will come out to watch us play and support the team."
Experience levels on the team vary as widely as ages, Babington said. The youngest player is 23 and the oldest is 64-year-old APG civilian Don Zugner. Other members include Mark Orlando, who played hockey for Pennsylvania State University and Jason Scott of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command who also played through childhood and college. Babington said the team has drawn so much interest they likely will have to form two teams for the next season.
"We started with 10 players and now we have more than 30," he said. "We'll elect captains and I'll manage both teams."
Membership is open to anyone, including women.
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "You get to enter tournaments and play hockey year-round. We pay for everything on our own and play through the winter and summer leagues."
Babington coaches his daughter's soccer team for Child, Youth and School Services. She also plays hockey at Ice World with the Harford North Stars, along with the children of other JTC Blast members.
"It's very much a family affair," said Babington.
Anyone interested in trying out for the APG Hockey Team must be an eligible MWR patron or Family member. Tryouts will be held in the spring. Contact the Sports Office for more information at 410-278-3929.