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Photo by Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Hockey star, combat veterans share common ground

13 Jul 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley and his family spent the afternoon July 13 sharing the Stanley Cup with II Marine Expeditionary Force wounded warriors.

Wesley brought the fabled hockey icon to the Wounded Warrior Barracks to raise spirits and pay respect to veterans of the current War on Terrorism.

Amid a crowd of excited sports fanatics and combat veterans, the silver trophy was brought in and given a place of honor so all could gaze upon the 114-year-old artifact, touched by hundreds of National Hockey League legends.

“I’ve been a big hockey fan since I was a kid, so I was pretty excited when I found out we were going to get to see the Stanley Cup,” said Sgt. Jason Simms, 2nd squad leader at the Wounded Warrior Barracks. “It’s the oldest trophy in sports and it’s been through a lot,” said the native of Havertown, Pa., who added he believes the legend that the cup brings good luck to anyone who touches it.

Each player on the winning side of the NHL finale get to spend at least a day with the lucky cup. Wesley said he chose to spend the day with Marines wounded in the War on Terrorism to show his and his family’s support for the military.

“The idea to visit came from my wife and me,” said Wesley. “We pass by this base all the time, and we wanted to stop by to visit some of the Marines here.”

After recovering from the initial shock from their brush with fame and infamy, the floor was opened to the Marines and their burning questions for the NHL superstar.

“Do you still have all your teeth?” asked one Marine in the middle of the crowd. The question caused laughter to erupt among the group.

Along with the useful knowledge and personal perspective of the pro athlete, the Marines did indeed learn that Wesley is one of the few players in the league who still has all his teeth.

“It’s fun to talk to the Marines,” said Wesley, who has spent 18 years years in the NHL. “We can compare injuries. Although mine didn’t come from a bullet or (improvised explosive device), but it’s similar, so we have that in common.”

Wesley and his wife, Barbara, reciprocated the question and answer period with a few questions of their own, taking time to hear the stories of individual Marines. Both seemed impressed with the positive outlook and camaraderie of the injured Marines and sailor.

“I was more star struck by the cup than by the player,” admitted Simms who was one of the first in line to have his picture taken with the cup. “The whole visit was really awesome, though.”

The Stanley Cup is passed from team to team with the names of each team member engraved on the cup. Although the cup is technically worth less than $50, the folklore and tradition behind the infamous icon make it a lucky token to anyone who comes in contact with it.

There are three official copies of the Stanley Cup in the sports world today. The original, which stands in the NHL hall of fame; a duplicate, which is awarded to winning teams; and a third mold, which remains on display in the NHL museum while the award cup is traveling, according to Mike Bolt, the “Keeper of the Cup.”

During their short visit, two kinds of veterans -— veterans of war and a veteran of the NHL -- shared common ground, both having achieved their profession’s highest honors and now, the luck of the Stanley Cup.