WEST LEBANON, N.H. - Monday afternoon saw the Dartmouth men's and women's hockey teams leave the familiar surroundings of Thompson Arena behind, only to be replaced by Campion Rink just a short 10-minute drive down the road.
Both men's and women's players wore skates and donned their respective Big Green jerseys, but rather than a practice or a game, the two groups participated in what has become an annual community event.
With Dartmouth athletic trainer Nicole Humann's help, Northeast Passage was once again able to bring sled hockey to the Upper Valley in an effort to spread the game. Designed for veterans and individuals with mobility impairments, the group organizes sled hockey events to introduce the sports to individuals who otherwise may not be aware of it.
Sled hockey is an ice sport that allows individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy and participate in the popular winter sport.
"I love doing this. It's a 'thank you' to our service members, who have sacrificed so much for us," Humann said. "It's great to have the two Dartmouth hockey teams out here, because it shows them something new they probably wouldn't otherwise see."
"For the veterans, especially the younger ones, it's great for them to see college players out here. They are coming back and, more likely than not, thinking about colleges and this is something that will help encourage them to pursue those intentions."
Early on, Reagan Fischer, Ailish Forfar and Olivia Whitford from the women's team as well as Cab Morris, Eric Neiley, Alex Goodship and Mike Keenan of the men's squad were on hand to help set up before getting on the ice.
The trio of Neiley, Goodship and Keenan wasted little time in getting into sleds and trying out this new brand of hockey for themselves.
"Nicole has done a lot the past two years putting this together. Myself, being a veteran, coming here and seeing this it's pretty special and also very humbling for those of us that have been doing this our whole life," Hudak said.
"When we skate we take it for granted. To watch what they're are able to do on the sled and to watch our kids get on and try it you realize what it was like when you first started playing hockey a long time ago. Hopefully we can build on this and maybe even bring it to Dartmouth."
"I thought that was a great event," Gaudet remarked, echoing the sentiments of Hudak. "To see so many veterans and people who have been faced with life-changing circumstance after these injuries learning the game was remarkable."
"There was a lot of energy, enthusiasm and laughter from the sled hockey players as well as our group of players representing the college so well. I think this is a great event and I felt that way last year and didn't hesitate for a second when asked to participate again this year."
U.S. National Sled Hockey Team player Taylor Chace, a Hampton Falls, N.H., native, ran the event on the ice, organizing drills to teach players the necessary skills associated with this brand of hockey. An all-tournament selection at the 2012 Sled Hockey World Championship for his part in helping the US claim gold, Chace served as a perfect ambassador for the game he loves.
Northeast Passage's motto is to "Empower individuals with disabilities to 'Define. Pursue. Achieve.' their Therapeutic Recreation and Adaptive Sports goals."