USA Hockey NTDP U-18 players visit hospitalized veterans
The players signed pucks and listened. The patients told stories.
“Every time I put the jersey on, I’m going to think of these guys,” said forward Brendan Silk of the USA National Team Development Program Under-18 hockey team. “It puts it in a whole new perspective.”
The U-18 team visited the Veterans Affairs hospital Monday. Splitting into groups, the players stood in various rooms asking about the service, why they were there and how they are feeling as the holidays near.
“It means a lot to me,” said Jared Rutledge, the team’s goalie. “We get to sit in the locker room with all this fancy stuff, and it’s because of their service.”
As players stood and listened, they signed a puck for the vets to keep. The players listened to stories. They said they were shocked that the patients were thanked them just for visiting.
“It’s incredible. What we go through is nothing like what they went through,” said forward Cam Darcy. “We go away from our families, but we get to talk to them. They didn’t.”
One of the vets told Silk that the team’s visit “made my holiday,” something Silk said really means a lot to him.
While the players moved from room to room they were frequently stopped by in the halls as patients asked for pictures and a few seconds to talk. Eventually, the team had to be guided to their next visit so that they could meet more vets.
Some stories were detailed and showed how much some veterans went through.
“Immediately you feel for them,” Rutledge said. “These are the types of injuries that don’t happen to us. They risked their lives for what they did.”
Other vets are joked around with the guys, and told them about the good things that come with military service.
Jed Pacelli, 31, served in the Navy from 1999-2003. Pacelli was at the VA to have gallbladder surgery and was going under the knife the next day. He told the players about how much traveling he did as a soldier, including going to Canada.
“Hockey is the only thing Canada gave the world and America made it better,” said Pacelli, eliciting a huge laugh from the team.
Pacelli said it made him feel a better to talk with guys and give them a bit of advice. But he was quick to tell them that they didn’t need to thank him for his service.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve, so you can do what you do,” Pacelli said.