The team is on Long Island in preparation for Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders. But in today’s blog, I want to shift away from hockey for a moment to talk about Veterans Day and what it means to me and the team.
History will tell you that Veterans Day coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I (major hostilities formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918).
While we in America have parades and special services at museums, monuments and cemeteries, our friends to the North don poppies to remember their armed forces (I’m guessing most of you saw that on Friday’s broadcast as Pete Weber and Terry Crisp both wore the red flowers).
Like many around the country, today is a very special day for me and my extended family. It is a day to remember and celebrate those who raised their right-hand and volunteered to serve this great nation of ours in the past and present.
I’m usually not one to talk about myself, but for those who do not know, I am a veteran of the United States Armed Forces. I served six years as a helicopter aircrewman in the United States Navy before joining the Nashville Predators staff in September of 2009 as a student-intern.
Military service is a big thing in my family. Both my younger brother and I served this nation, following the footsteps of our grandfather, who served in the Army during the 1950s. This day holds a special place for me, not just because of my service and the service of my fellow veterans, but because of the sacrifices so many have made in defense of freedom throughout time.
For me, that sacrifice not only includes my own blood, sweat and tears, but the life of my brother, Drew, who was killed in Afghanistan two years ago. And because of that, Veterans Day will always be a day that I can reflect not on myself, but on my brother and the thousands of others who have given their lives on the battlefield.
As a fan of professional sports, I see the dedication of many professional sports leagues take toward battling cancer, fighting bullying and a multitude of other health and social causes.
But in hockey, I’ve seen an overwhelming acceptance of the military, its culture and those who have served. This is evidenced by the military salutes that take place all over the League (we’ve had one at every game during this 17-day trip), and by events like the one the Preds hosted while we were in Los Angeles, as the team welcomed a Medal of Honor winner into their ranks for the weekend.
“I’m a proud American and I’m proud the live in the greatest country in the world,” Hendricks said. “There are a lot of men and women out there that have given a lot, given their lives and paid the ultimate price for us and our freedoms. I have two little ones at home, and if there is any way to say thanks, it’s through my kids. My kids are going to get a lot of opportunities in their lives – opportunities that they wouldn’t get anywhere else – because of where they live and I can’t thank our military enough for that.”
Hendricks, a long-time supporter of Wound Warriors and Defending the Blueline, says his trip to Afghanistan in support of the USO is one of his greatest memories from his professional career.
“I went on the USO holiday tour last Christmas with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey,” Hendricks explained. “I got to go see some awful places in Afghanistan – Kandahar, Bagram Air Base and a few other places. I was able to meet some great men and women to just say thanks and let them know that we are very appreciative of everything they’ve done and everything they continue to do.
For Nystrom, the dedication and remembrance of the military was solidified when he met members of Hockey Saves, a non-profit that works to supply military members with equipment, tickets and ice time.
During that encounter, some of the service members gave Nystrom a hat and they signed a hockey puck for him but, unfortunately, some of those same service members were killed during their next deployment.
“Being an American, I was happy to get involved with a few groups that support the military and their families, and they help them come out to hockey games,” Nystrom said. “Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the servicemen and we took a picture for Hockey Saves. They signed a puck for me, and a couple of them were getting deployed right after that. Some of those guys ended up getting killed in action. It’s not directly related to me, but it’s those guys who make me remember and we are very fortunate that we get to live the lives that we do because of them.”
For Nystrom, the hat and puck have become a symbol of sacrifice and dedication, and he wears that hat with pride in the Preds locker room each and every day.
This kind of dedication to the servicemen and women of the United States makes me very proud to be involved which this great organization and this great League.
Alright, I’ll climb down off of my Star-Spangled soapbox.
As I eluded to before, the Preds are on the practice ice today getting ready to take on the Islanders on Tuesday night. The Isles are coming off a four-game road trip, including a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday to close out the trip. So we are once again set to watch two teams out for a little retribution.
Until next time,
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