By Nathan DeenJune 6, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (June 5, 2013) -- When they step onto the ice, nothing else seems to matter.
Not the previous week of work demanded by a rigorous schedule, nor whatever lies ahead on Monday.
For one hour on Saturdays, a group of Soldiers are finding peace and refuge; a way to relieve stress through the sport of hockey.
"There's no rank," said Seth Bierman, an Army reservist who works at the Columbus Civic Center. "There's no job. You're either a forward or defenseman. That's one of the greatest gifts -- playing with guys who share your love of your nation and your sport."
About 25 Soldiers turned out Saturday to the Columbus Ice Rink to play a scrimmage game as part of the Hockey Saves program, a new, local nonprofit organization committed to providing Soldiers with free ice time on the weekends.
"Hockey is therapy," said Chris Kidd, the S3 operations officer for the 198th Infantry Brigade, who regularly plays on Saturdays. "We want to use this as a way for military guys to get together and not worry about military life for an hour or two.
"Whenever I feel stressed, I prefer that physical exertion. It's also a team sport so you may find guys who are going through the same thing you are."
The idea for Hockey Saves started four months ago when Jacqueline Andrews was looking for a way to say thank you to Soldiers. An avid hockey fan from New York, Andrews decided to buy ice time for a group of Soldiers, Bierman being among them.
What started as a one-time thing, Andrews said, turned into a local organization gaining attention from hockey communities around the country through social media.
Hockey Saves has received donations of ice time and equipment from Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, the Notre Dame Hockey team, the University of Georgia club team and Defending the Blue Line, a like-minded organization dedicated to making hockey affordable to military children, Andrews said. Hockey Saves has also sent one of its Soldiers to visit with players from the Detroit Red Wings, she said.
One hour of ice time at the Columbus Ice Rink for the group of Soldiers cost $180.
"Hockey is an expensive sport between gear and ice time," Kidd said. "Anything we can do to offset that cost to the Soldiers is a good thing."
Bierman said the program is having a direct effect in his weekly productivity, as well as the productivity of the other Soldiers.
"You don't have to think about work on Monday," he said. "It keeps your morale high and boosts your motivation."
For more information about Hockey Saves or to donate money for ice time and equipment visit hockeysaves.us.
"I think a lot of people just want to give to Soldiers," Bierman said. "If we have programs like Hockey Saves, that's the way for them to reach out and say thank you."