An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The hoc-key to morale

  • Published
  • By Amn Jeremy Wentworth
Teamwork, dedication and physical fitness; these three things go hand in hand in the Air Force. However, some Altus Airmen have expanded these traits into off duty hours, not on a plane or flightline, but in the hockey rink.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Justin Wright, 58th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, had never played hockey before starting a team with other members of the 58th AS. After a few games, Wright was hooked.

“Growing up in South Carolina, we didn’t have hockey or ice skates,” said Wright. “I used to rollerblade when I was little, but not while playing hockey, so a couple of guys said ‘we should start a hockey league’. I bought some skates and a stick and tried it out. It was awesome!”

The group consists of Airmen from several squadrons, who meet up every Sunday to play pickup games. The Airmen develop a sense of teamwork and kinship with others that they might not normally interact with. Their shared love for the sport of hockey creates a growing bond between the players.

“It started out with just the 58th with a couple of guys,” said Wright. “Now we’ve got 97th Civil Engineer Squadron, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron, some of the 54th Air Refueling Squadron and some others.”

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Daniels, a 58th AS loadmaster, is another player who helped start the group. Daniels likes that hockey keeps him fit and helps him meet other people.

“It gets me out of the house,” said Daniels. “It’s exercise, it’s fun and I get to hang out with guys from the office and other squadrons too when we’re able to get them out.”

The team gathered their own equipment including goals, extra gear and even makeshift boards to be placed around the “rink”, which is a tennis court with the nets removed.

In addition to getting their own materials, the team reached out to the service members at Fort Sill who have their own league, and even an actual skating rink.

“Most of the time they put on their Facebook when they’re playing and they just have a few guys out there,” said Wright. “They have an actual rink like, eventually what we want out here. A couple of us messaged them and got in contact to set up a little game.”

The team has high hopes for growth and hopes that there will eventually be enough interest so that squadrons can play against each other.

“Ultimately we would like to start an intramural league, like softball, basketball, soccer,” said Wright. “I think we could get enough interest if we get squadron teams together. That’s eventually where we want it to go.”

The team is looking for new players, and are able to accommodate any level of experience.

“Come out, try it,” said Daniels. “We’ve got extra equipment and we’ve got the time.”

For these Airmen, hockey is a way to relieve stress while staying fit. After the games are over, they go back home and get ready to go back to work. No matter how long the week is, they get to look forward to Sunday evenings, where they can strap on roller blades and play the game they love with friends.