The Boch Ice Center in Dedham, MA served as the backdrop for the Boston Blades to pay tribute to the brave men and women of the Armed Forces. Hosting Military Appreciation Night, Blades players donned warmup jerseys with a camouflage motif, followed by a special pregame ceremony.
All game-worn jerseys are being auctioned off online, with proceeds going towards causes such as Hockey Saves and the Wounded Warrior Project. Complementing the camouflage jerseys is the team’s release of Operation Hat Trick hats, which also raises funds to honor the military. Such an initiative is part of a strong effort on the part of the Blades to give back to the community and try to bring happiness and hope into the lives of the less fortunate.
A holiday food drive shall take place on December 12, which sees all fans donating a non-perishable food item receiving free admission to a Blades contest the following day. Building on the sense of holiday goodwill and friendship, a December 19 Teddy Bear toss (which fans are encouraged to throw onto the ice after the Blades’ first goal), which will be donated to children in need.
Hosting the Brampton Thunder on Military Appreciation Night, the Blades provided a valiant effort, embodying teamwork. It is a strong sense of teamwork that is in Grace Murphy’s heart. At a very young age, she lost her father, Lt. Col. Michael Murphy.
Living on a military base in North Carolina, Grace’s hockey roots took shape there, as she would play road hockey, with the support of her father. Her decision to continue playing throughout her youth was an opportunity to pay tribute to his support. A pilot in the Marine Corps, Lt. Col. Murphy’s plane had malfunctioned, resulting in a crash that resulted in the tragic loss of four Marines.
While Grace has been remarkably brave, showing tremendous strength and dignity, she makes the annual pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery to honor his memory. With a tattoo that is a permanent reminder of her father’s courage, she was also a pillar of strength for her mother, who fought and survived breast cancer.
Proud to don the camouflage jersey, Murphy was stoic, keeping her emotions in check, while providing her teammates with an opportunity to win. With friends, family and numerous members of the Armed Services in attendance, the game certainly stood as one of the highlights in Murphy’s season,
“Friday night for me was full of excitement and pride. I was able to keep my emotions in check and hold my head high throughout the night.
The most important aspect of the evening was having my friends and family there and allowing them to see us (the Blades) play the best hockey we have played all season. This game meant a lot to me, but it meant more to my family; they got the chance to see me playing the game I love for our veterans who give their all to give us the opportunity to play.”
Hoping to obtain their second win of the season, the Blades’ confidence was strengthened by Genevieve Lacasse’s superlative first period performance. Making 14 saves in the first period, the Thunder were unable to score on her, reflecting a 0-0 score.
Saguneay, Quebec native Elizabeth Tremblay opened the scoring in the second period, logging her second goal of the season as captain Tara Wathcorn earned the assist. Enjoying a 1-0 lead, Lacasse would go on to block 20 Brampton shots in the second, as all in attendance believed that the team’s first win was within reach.
At the 8:57 mark of the third, the Thunder would solve Lacasse, snapping her bid for the first shutout of the Blades’ season. Second year player Candice Styles would score an unassisted goal, to tie the score.
Less than three minutes later, a pair of CWHL All-Stars would team up to supply Brampton with its first lead of the game. Jamie Lee Rattray, the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award Winner, would set up Jess Jones for her fourth goal of the season, which would also stand as the game-winning tally.
Gaining the First Star of the Game nod for her efforts, Jones was joined by Candice Styles, recognized as Second Star, while Blades goaltender Genevieve Lacasse continues to prove why she is one of the world’s finest at her position. Making 51 saves in an admirable effort, she gained Third Star recognition.
For Lacasse, the chance to participate in Military Appreciation Night, held a strong emotional component. With several family members in Canada’s Armed Forces, Lacasse is proud of their bravery and effort. One way that Lacasse paid tribute to her proud military roots, along with honoring the military service of other brave Canadians, involved a remarkable trek to the Arctic Circle in the summer of 2014. Joined by Caroline Ouellette, the all-time scoring leader in CWHL play, the two joined others in a two-week journey, held in conjunction with the True Patriot Love Foundation.
“It was a huge honour to be able to participate in our military appreciation night with having my father, brother, and sister in law all currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
My trip to the magnetic North Pole in the Arctic meant so much to me. Being able to raise funds and awareness for our military through the trip was very special and something I will never forget. The soldiers on the trip with us were so inspirational.”
Like Murphy, Krista Patronick, the Blades first-year general manager, also has proud ties to the Marine Corps. “It is a cause I am passionate about, as I have an uncle retired from the Marine Corps and also quite a few friends in the military, many having served overseas. I wanted to do something to honor their sacrifices.”
Although the final score may not have been the desired result for Patronick et al, the bigger victory was the sense of citizenship, friendship and respect that defined a memorable evening, strengthening the role of such dedicated athletes as hockey humanitarians.
“The most enjoyable moment was seeing the players wearing the camo jerseys, as many of them have military connections and are connected to that cause as well. We had a fantastic pre game ceremony with a puck drop featuring Audra Vigliotte, who served overseas, and a color guard from the New Hampshire National Guard.
We also debuted our Operation Hat Trick hats, the proceeds from which go toward helping wounded veterans. It was really great to have everyone come together for the cause.”
Over the seasons, military appreciation night has been celebrated by teams at numerous levels including the NCAA, (among the first was the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers), which has also seen universities host events for autism, breast cancer and mental health. The impact of leagues such as the CWHL and the NWHL, (with the New York Riveters serving as the first team to hold such an event), add to this momentum, all unique ways of showing tribute.
Despite the role of the military and subsequently politics, possibly becoming a subject of heated debate among some, the aim of Military Appreciation Night is to honor those who have served, and more importantly, lost their lives. Regardless of anyone’s political orientation, a fallen soldier is someone’s child, spouse, sibling or parent, highly deserving of recognition and a chance to honor their memory.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Angela Spagna
For more information on the camo jersey auction, please visit: http://www.ebay.com/usr/bostonblades