By Malisa Komalarajun
Volunteer Coordinator-2018 USA Hockey Disabled Festival
The USA Hockey Disabled Festival was formed to create opportunities for people to compete and challenge themselves beyond conventional limits. There are six Disabled Hockey disciplines competing during the 14th Annual Disabled Festival in April: Sled Hockey (April 12-15), and Special Hockey, Blind Hockey, Standing/Amputee Hockey, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey and Warrior Hockey (April 5-8). With courage and determination, these athletes overcome fears, break down barriers, and shatter pre-conceived notions as they work toward new goals.
Disabled Hockey’s motto is Hockey is for EveryBODY. Hockey is accessible to anyone. Time and time again, our disabled athletes inspire us to greater heights. Throughout life, we look for role models that can drive us to greater achievements. Inspiration reveals itself in many forms, and these athletes offer inspiration for many lifetimes. Over 1800 disabled hockey players from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom will compete during the four-day competitive Disabled Festival, which this year is hosted at the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, Illinois.
In Part I and Part II of our 2018 Disabled Hockey Festival Series we featured the disciplines of Blind Hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey Team and Special Hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey Team. In Part III of our Disabled Hockey Series, we’re putting the focus on Warrior Hockey.
The Chicago Blackhawks Warriors ice hockey program was founded in 2015, in conjunction with USA Disabled Hockey, to give our injured military members and veterans the opportunity to play hockey in an environment suited to their needs. The program uses hockey as a rehabilitation tool to overcome physical and mental disabilities sustained in their service to our nation.
The Chicago Blackhawks Warriors program offers our returning military men and women a structured environment to practice and compete in the game of ice hockey. They are an adult-level non-profit, filled with players who have a great passion for the game of hockey and the camaraderie it brings.
Billy Davidson only started playing hockey three years ago, but already calls it an addictive, all-encompassing craving. Hockey helps him to forget about life’s ups and downs, and recharge at the same time. Billy grew up in California where surfing was a passion for him, but when he moved his family to Chicagoland area seven years ago and became “landlocked,” as he says, hockey helped him to keep his sanity.
He joined the Marines right out of high school, leaving for boot camp only two days after his graduation ceremony. His service took him all over the world, including 5 combat tours in Iraq. Billy retired after 21 years in the Marines, 13 of those deployed overseas.
When he finished his service, however, he missed the feeling of pride, loyalty, and belonging that came with being a Marine. He tried to fill that void with work, sometimes putting in 80 hours a week and traveling extensively. Despite that, he still felt like something was missing, until he met the Warriors team and “the rest is history,” he says. “What the program has done for me is to give back to me what I have been missing since I left the military in 2011.”
Billy has been married for 16 years, and has three sons (ages 5, 7, and 15), who all play a number of sports including hockey. His oldest son, in fact, is the one who got Billy into hockey. When he’s not playing for the Warriors, Billy says hockey has become a huge part of his family life; he is often in the stands cheering for his son, coaching, or officiating games.
While Billy is a competitive person, he loves the feeling he gets from playing with the Warriors team. Regardless of the score, he feels like he’s winning just being on the ice with the team. He calls the Warrior program “truly exceptional,” with much of the credit going to the coaches and staff. “Without the support of some truly remarkable people, this program wouldn’t be what it is today, and for that I am really thankful,” he says.
NOTES: The Sponsorship Committee is looking for your help. This request is open to corporate sponsors, individual sponsors and/or our local hockey clubs throughout Illinois. If you would like to become a sponsor or make a personal donation, please contact Michael Svac at firstname.lastname@example.org or click HERE to donate. All proceeds will go to the 14th Annual Disabled Hockey Festival and will directly benefit ALL Hockey Players with a disability in Illinois.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: The planning committee is looking for volunteers to assist in planning and running the event. If interested in volunteering please contact Malisa Komalarajun, Disabled Hockey Festival Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com.