Veterans and former NHL players to hold game in DL
Though June may seem like an odd time to be thinking about ice hockey, the halls of Detroit Lakes’ Kent Freeman Sports Arena will be filled with the sounds of clashing sticks, speeding skates and hopefully, cheering crowds on Saturday, June 8.
That’s the date set for a special exhibition game involving not only past and present National Hockey League stars, but also players from the Minnesota Warriors.
According to Warriors President Alan Lindgren, the program uses the game of hockey to help U.S. military veterans who are wounded, injured, or otherwise disabled with reintegrating into civilian life.
“It’s a year-round program,” Lindgren said. “Ice hockey is our therapy.”
The program is open to not only veterans living with physical injuries and limb amputation, but also those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), manic depression, anxiety and other service-related mental disorders, he continued.
“There may not be outward scars, but they still have problems (related to their military experiences),” Lindgren added.
“It’s the perfect vehicle for them to just get out of the house and get in contact with other veterans,” he said, adding that the camaraderie that develops between fellow veterans is unique, because of a sense of “shared experiences and sacrifices.”
Lindgren’s program caught the attention of ex-hockey player Zac Lamppa, a proud hockey parent and volunteer with the Detroit Lakes Youth Hockey Association, who went to one of their practices in Vadnais Heights (where the program is based).
“The Warriors have been doing an annual game with NHL alumni on Veterans’ Day for a couple of years, as a fundraiser for us,” Lindgren said. “Zac heard about us through some friends, and approached me.”
“I was very impressed with how professional they are, and how much this program does for them,” Lamppa said.
Together, the two men came up with the idea of holding an exhibition in Detroit Lakes, to both raise funds for the local youth hockey program, and increase awareness of the Minnesota Warriors.
“We would like to expand into other areas of the state, wherever we can find enough vets (to participate),” Lindgren explained.
“We’re based out of the Vadnais Heights area, and we also play in Richfield occasionally — but we have players from New Prague, Braham, St. Cloud and Shakopee as well as Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“We even have one player that lives in South Dakota, who when he’s in town will stop by for one of our practices, maybe once a month or every other month.”
Both Lindgren and Lamppa have used their past and present NHL contacts to bring in players for the exhibition, and many of them will also be participating in a related golf event at Wildflower Golf Course on the preceding Friday, June 7.
“In order to generate revenue for DL youth hockey, we need to have something to draw people in,” Lamppa said.
“The NHL alumni will help do that — help this event stand out,” Lindgren added.
Plus, Lamppa added, “I think it’s a great cause — to create awareness for the Minnesota Warriors hockey club, and to generate revenue for us.”
Though some of the final logistics for the event are still being organized, the City of Detroit Lakes is already on board, Lamppa said. “The city is going to give us the ice for the day,” he added. “The big thing, of course, is going to be the fans. It would be nice to get 500 people there.”
For more information about the Minnesota Warriors, please visit www.mnwarriors.com.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes