By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsNovember 29, 2017
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 29, 2017) -- Soldiers from installations around the world have gathered at Fort Drum to participate in a three-week All-Army ice hockey trial camp that will culminate in a contest against a Canadian Army team on Dec. 16.
Capt. Jeffery Fearing, head coach, said that he was excited by the prospect of training a team of Soldiers to represent the Army in this international game.
"It's an unbelievable honor and opportunity to coach this team and be a part of this event," he said. "We're happy to be here, and I can't wait to get started."
Fearing said that he is grateful for all the planning and coordination efforts made by 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum Garrison staff members, as well as Erin Gardner, Watertown Parks and Recreation superintendent, for arranging practice times at the Watertown Municipal Arena.
"It's a first-class facility, and we're beyond honored for what everyone has done at Fort Drum and in Watertown to make this happen," Fearing said.
Among the candidates, five are from the 10th Mountain Division (LI), in addition to one assistant coach. Three Soldiers are stationed in Alaska, one in Germany and another in Vicenza, Italy. Fearing said that 25 Soldier-athletes were invited to the camp -- as well as two assistant coaches and a trainer -- and the final roster will have no more than 20 names on it. The first of two cuts is expected to be made by Dec. 1.
Fearing, a U.S. Military Academy graduate, played four years on the Army West Point team. He said that several candidates trying out for this team also played for the Black Knights. The coach is familiar with everyone's hockey experience from their applications, and Fearing said that, on paper, he is assured that he has the talent needed to challenge the Canadian Army team.
"Obviously, it is tough to know how good everyone is going to be just from reading the bios," he said. "But you get a good idea about what level of experience they have and the guys who really know the game and can play it at a high level without much instruction."
The Soldiers will have a chance to test their skills when they face the Watertown Wolves at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 and 6 p.m. Dec. 13. The scrimmages are open to the public at the Watertown Municipal Arena.
"The Watertown Wolves is a professional hockey team, so we're going to treat this like a professional game and just take it as an opportunity and do the best that we can," Fearing said.
When the team is not on the ice, players will conduct strength and conditioning training at Magrath Sports Complex and Atkins Functional Fitness Facility. They also will participate in hockey clinics with local youth teams from Watertown, Pulaski and Canton.
"This is a really cool opportunity," said Capt. Cody Omilusik, an aviator with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). "I never heard of an All-Army hockey team before, so once this popped up on the radar, it was something we were all looking forward to."
Omilusik captained the West Point team in 2011 and was named most valuable player. He and his brother, Sgt. Carson Omilusik, with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, are trying out for the team. Both are stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Sgt. Evan Hammersley, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, from Fort Drum, said he was a bit nervous during the first practice on Nov. 29.
"There's some great competition here, so I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "A lot of these guys played high-level college hockey, so I'm both nervous and excited for this opportunity, and I don't think it gets any better than this."
Hammersley said he has been looking forward to the trial camp for months and he has taken to the ice when he could to sharpen his skating skills.
"Everyone comes in a little rusty, but everyone is pretty talented, and once we get going, I think we'll be a force to be reckoned with," he said.
The U.S. Army-Canadian Army Ice Hockey Game at the Watertown Municipal Arena is free and open to the public. The game will start after the ceremonial puck drop at 3:30 p.m.
The Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation will provide a free shuttle service on post to get community members to the game. It will leave Magrath Sports Complex at 2 p.m. and will return to Fort Drum after the game. Those who wish to stay for the free Watertown Wolves game after the All-Army game also will have the shuttle option. For more information, call (315) 772-5880.