Team USA will don these alternate jerseys for both games on the weekend
USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program will celebrate Military Appreciation Weekend on March 3-4 as the U.S. National Under-17 Team will face off against the Youngstown Phantoms at USA Hockey Arena.
The 10th annual Salute to Heroes Celebration is dedicated to celebrating local veterans, active military and their families. The NTDP continues the special tradition of hosting a completely cost-free appreciation night which includes a reception, fun zone for the kids and hockey game tickets. More than 1,800 veterans and military family members attended last year.
“Military Weekend is a great opportunity for us to connect our fans and players with the heroes who have kept us free,” said Scott Monaghan, assistant executive director of USA Hockey for the NTDP and USA Hockey Arena. “It’s our opportunity to do something to thank our military and first responders for all the things that they have done for us and continue to do for us every single day. We are excited to welcome these heroes to our arena.”
As part of this event, the NTDP will be wearing specialty jerseys designed by Michael Palmer, a veteran who served eight years in the United States Army and was honorably discharged in 2013. He was deployed for two combat tours, one each in Iraq and Afghanistan, and earned the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Since leaving military service, he has continued to serve his community as a professional firefighter for the City of Rochester, Michigan, where he is a lieutenant, fire instructor and technical rescue specialist. He is also the president of the Motor City Veterans Hockey Association, which helps veterans heal through hockey.
When it came to the design, Palmer wanted to create a unique style that merged the traditional hockey jersey along with the features of the military uniform. It took collaboration from the NTDP and some of his fellow veteran military members to create the final product.
“I wanted to capture the details of the military uniform without highlighting one specific branch of service,” Palmer said. “We went with a camouflage base to it, so it was not one style to one branch of service, but rather a white generic camo. It was a basic design so we could add details.”
While the sweaters have a lot of specific details, there is one part that stands out to Palmer.
“We used the retro USA crest [1960s eagle with USA shield on it] and that really gives it a combination of a retro with a modern look to it,” he said. “The layout of the name plates and name tags — it’s all the little details. I just couldn’t believe how much it popped for me.”
These jerseys have extra meaning to U17 players Christian Humphreys (Pittsburgh) and EJ Emery (Compton, California).
“It’s already special enough to throw on own our jersey. To put on a jersey that was designed by someone else, we are looking forward to it,” Humphreys said. “My grandpa has done some tours and been overseas, so this is special for me.”
Emery shared that same excitement.
“My grandpa was an army veteran,” he said. “To represent the USA and everything they did for us, it’s pretty special.
“It’s the little things that we can do to show our appreciation. Wearing the USA jersey is an honor and it’s incredible to represent our country.”
In addition to the NTDP staff and players, Palmer is excited for the debut of the jerseys. He has developed a relationship with the NTDP staff and players over the last few years.
“I’m honored; it’s very special for me and my family,” he said. “I have been fortunate and humbled to build some amazing friendships with the program along with my family. I look at it as another piece of being involved and helping these kids grow and develop as young men.”
Palmer has had an opportunity to speak with this year’s U18 team. His goal is to make an impact on the players on what it means to serve in the military.
“One thing I told the boys when we talked is to not to forget that the veterans are giving their best years of their life,” Palmer said. “It’s about service before self. I wanted them to remember that and pay that forward by helping to honor those who have served, and to make sure to give thanks to the veterans that have served.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.