HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) — When veterans first leave the military, it can be a hard transition into the civilian life, but common interests can break the ice.
“Some of the things you miss when you get out of the military is that comradery, you miss the guys. If you ask a veteran, ‘what do they miss most?’ It’s 9 times out of 10, it’s the guys,” said Jonathan French, Captain, Michigan U.P. Veterans Hockey Club.
“I think because hockey is woven through just about everything that we do up here, it makes it a pretty easy transition in terms of finding that comradery, having a joint goal helps a lot,” said Trevor Ploe, Michigan U.P. Veterans Hockey Club.
Hockey, being a team sport, can bring these veterans together to focus on one goal. To win, and that’s what they did in game 1 of the Battle of the Bridge fundraiser series against the Saginaw Spirit Warriors.
“Well the series started off with an old friend from high school, he was a couple years behind us, he called and asked ‘Hey is there any veterans that play hockey up in the U.P.?’ I kind of chuckled and said ‘Well, we have one or two,’ and he said ‘Well do you have enough to make a team?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I think I can put a team together,” and he said, ‘Well good, we officially challenge you guys to a series of hockey,” said French.
The veteran’s hockey team has players from all across the Upper Peninsula. From Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette County, and all the way up to Houghton, these vet’s come to play.
“I think it just highlights how many veterans we have in our small community. It really blew me away when I started thinking about how many people I know that are veterans that I could recruit to skate. In fact, at this skate, I dragged my brother-in-law out with me,” said Ploe.
Some of the veterans have not played in an organized game until Game 1.
“It was a little intimidating, walking into the Dow Event Center and seeing them line up on the ice, all matching equipment and numbers of their helmets. They looked very professional, but hockey is apart of our blood up here,” said French.
“Hockey is our passion and we just went out and played like we were told too and had a good time and the puck just ended up in the back of their net a few times.”
The Battle of the Bridge will provide information and learning opportunities for veterans and their families from organizations such as the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, the Escanaba Veterans Center, Houghton-Keweenaw County Department of Veterans Affairs Service Office, the Michigan Army National Guard, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Michigan Works!
“The City of Houghton has been outstanding,” said French. “They gave us the ice at the Dee Stadium for our game and they are helping us organize the event. They’re sending their buses out to get veteran’s from the older folks homes around in the area.”
Michigan Tech’s pep band will be in attendance along with their ROTC.
“Michigan Tech ROTC cadets are going to escort the veteran’s upstairs and stay with them,” said French. “They’ve got an open tab for whatever they want for food or beverages, coffee, hot dog, the cadets are going to run down and get it for them.”
For more information on the Michigan U.P. Veterans Hockey Club, click here.
Admissions will be $5. The puck drops at the Dee Stadium in Houghton at 7 p.m.
If you would like to attend game 2 of the Battle of the Bridge, click here.