A black-and-white striped referee, equipped with a helmet and pair of ice skates, makes his way to the middle of the rink, ready to serve the first puck of the game. With both teams in position, the sound of the small black disk clinks against the ice. The game begins. The Sailors engage.
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), along with Sailors from various commands in Naval Region Northwest, assemble on the weekends to form a Navy hockey team, hoping that one day the Navy will endorse a national team on the ice.
For Lt. Carolyn Ross, a native of Falls Church, Virginia, the sport has been a resounding echo in her life since she was a small child.
"My family went to our first hockey game as part of an office outing for my dad and his coworkers," said Ross. "I loved how spirited the fans were. After seeing a few big hits and a fight break out, I was right there screaming, 'Rip him to shreds!'"
So far, the hockey team hosts players from all ranks, with officers and enlisted playing side-by-side. This gives Sailors an opportunity to strengthen their ties with each other and center their activities around teamwork.
"Out on the ice we're all just a team," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Ryan Azar, a native of Boston. "We have blue shirts and khakis out there working together. We all want the same thing: to win. We came together our last game and were able to beat the Army."
The interaction that unfolds on the ice is so much more than just a game — it's an opportunity to inspire, to grow and to show the public the dedication and strength of our service members.
"I remember what it was like when I was young and the only girl playing on the boys' team, and would see an older girl in high school still playing hockey with the boys, holding her own," said Ross. "I realized after one of my games with the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Navy Team, when a little girl at the rink asked to take a picture with me, that now I can be a source of inspiration for young girls starting out in the sport. They can continue to compete with the girls or boys all the way to adulthood."
Looking to the future, Sailors like Ross who feel passionately about the sport are trying to push their team into a greater spotlight, gathering support and voicing their opinion.
"I hope that the great success and support the PNW Navy Team received at our Army-Navy game does not go unnoticed," said Ross. "Hopefully it will motivate the decision to begin fielding an all-Navy hockey team within the next two years.
"All-Navy teams promote physical fitness and allow service members to train and compete at a national level while continuing their military service," she added. "While all-Navy teams already represent many sports such as bowling, cross country and golf, hockey could uniquely round out their lineup as one of the most exhilarating and fiercely competitive sports with some of the most passionate fans. Additionally, Army has already formed a national hockey team, so the Navy needs to field a team to challenge them."
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