Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 07/18/13 at 02:31 AM ET
from Jerry Barca of the New York Times,
During the more than three years Sgt. First Class Sean Harjala spent deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, he worked on his stickhandling.
In the midst of the dust and the heat, he recreated the sense of sending a puck skittering on ice by shooting tennis balls across plywood, a practice that calmed his mind and took it away, if only momentarily, from the realities of war.
“You can tell me that my dog just died, and as long as there’s a skate, I’ll go and skate and I’ll feel fine for that two hours,” said Harjala, 32, who has been awarded three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. “Everything kind of just leaves my mind. It’s like a clean slate, like a nice sleep.”
Harjala is no longer in the Middle East, but the relaxation that hockey provides remains. He is a member of the Fort Bragg Patriots, an amateur team made up primarily of active-duty combat veterans who have spent a combined 17 years fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All but two team members are soldiers, and at least one player from the team has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan every year during the wars.
They pay their own way, taking the ice to raise money for wounded veterans served by Camp Patriot. They play to bond with one another and reconnect to the game they love.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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