HANCOCK, Mich. (WJMN) – Hockey is a way of life for many in the Upper Peninsula, and it’s no different for our Veterans.

“I think what led me here was just that we have hockey woven through our community and veterans by and large, and our usually pretty tight group of people. Hockey players are usually pretty tight as well. So I figured, why not get together,” said Air force and Michigan Air National Guard veteran Trevor Ploe.

“I think it’s very important for the Veterans when they get out of service that the camaraderie is there and they get that through ice hockey. Just the fact that they still have a lot to give, a lot of service that they want to provide to the communities and to the U.P. in general,” said U.S. Army Veteran Jon French.

Trevor Ploe and Jon French are members of the Michigan U.P. Veteran’s Hockey Club. Their common threads of service to their country and love for hockey have fostered a growing and thriving community.

“I grew up playing hockey since I was three years old in northern Michigan and settled in the U.P.” said French. “This is where my wife and I decided we wanted to live. And it’s just a fantastic sport. You know, it teaches you all the lessons that you need to do to get by in life. And to do well in life.”

Families get together over hockey, bond over hockey. There’s meal planning that happens through hockey with multiple families. So, I think in that regard, there’s a strong sense of community within, you know, the sport.” Ploe continued, It’s the entire U.P., not just, you know, one county has been really supportive of this. It’s across the U.P, way to the east, over to the west side. We’ve had support and people are really eager to help out and donate and just support us in any way that they can.”

While these veterans have already sacrificed so much, they continue to find ways to serve.

“Well, I think it’s a matter of paying it forward. You know, if you’re a hockey player some time in your life, there was a coach who stuck out for you. There’s somebody that got you involved and got you kind of addicted to this awesome game. And hopefully we can be that person for these young kids. At least get them in and get them hooked,” said French.

“So USA hockey and the CCJHA putting on something like this where we can bring kids and they can try out the sport, see if they like it or not. Hopefully get some hooked. And like I said, I guess I don’t think are going to find a better sport or a sport that’s going to, you know, prepare you for the challenges of life going forward. More so than hockey,” said Ploe.

On the first Saturday in November, Jon, Trevor and other members of the Veterans hockey club helped youth in the Copper Country experience something new.

“Oh yeah. Know, they get all sorts of amped up and excited.” Ploe continued, “You know, the kids around here, you know, they know the sport. They’ve been to Michigan tech games. They’ve seen, you know, their brothers play hockey, their sisters play hockey, their parents play hockey. So the moment they get on the ice, you know, they’re usually pretty excited and really amped up about it.”