BATON ROUGE, La. --
BATON ROUGE, La.--The Louisiana Warriors traveled to Texas and won the Lone Star Warriors Classic against the Dallas Warriors in Allen, Texas on April 3, 2022.
In December of 2021, U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Boggs, the Recruiting Station Baton Rouge Recruiter Instructor, worked together with local veterans in Louisiana and established the Louisiana Warriors.
“I initially started it all by filing for the license and setting up the bare bones in the beginning,” said Boggs. “Then I built the initial core team of the veterans who already played and empowered them each to do different things to get the ball rolling, such as purchasing jerseys, signing up for tournaments, recruiting new players, fundraising, websites, and social media, etcetera.”
The Louisiana Warriors is a hockey organization out of Lafayette, Louisiana, under USA Hockey's Warrior program. This program provides an opportunity for local veterans to play the sport of hockey, regardless if they've played their entire life or never put a skate on the ice.
“There is no skill needed to join,” said U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Andrew T. Lopez. “We are open to everyone. This organization brings all veterans and service members together and give them a chance to be a part of a special group and program, which is far different from monthly meetings at the Veterans of Foreign Wars or Foreign Legion. This is about bringing others together for a good purpose. This is truly one-of-a-kind.”
The team, comprised of disabled and non-disabled veterans, came together to become far more than just a hockey team -- they became a family.
“It helps that we get to look forward to spending time together, such as practices and tournaments,” said Lopez. “It's not just about a team; it is about a relationship. It keeps us surrounded with high levels of comradery and Esprit De Corps. It provides a healthy outlet for us to deal with our own issues that we commonly share, other than turning to other unhealthy choices that others utilize to self-medicate.”
Winning the championship title was not the expected turnout for the Louisiana Warriors when they traveled to Texas in April.
“For me being the founder and captain of the team, it was surreal,” said Boggs. “Every other team rolled into Dallas, some in team buses. Most teams were highly sponsored with matching gear and jerseys. They had 15-20 members and were well-rested in between games. We [The Louisiana Warriors] had 10 skaters and a goalie. We had no sponsors, and only our jerseys matched. We battled through adversity from minute one.”
The Louisiana Warriors lost their first game in a shootout and were able to learn from their mistakes and come back strong to win the championship.
“Going into that weekend, none of us thought we would be playing for a title,” said retired U.S. Army Specialist Eric A. Iorio. “It wasn’t until we were all lined up on the ice for the start of the game listening to the National Anthem -- right then and there -- I told myself, whether we win or lose, this is the feeling I will remember most. The team has not only brought us together as closer friends but also allowed us to adopt a family type environment that we can all share together. Looking out for the next man has been something we’ve always been taught in the military. So, not only does the team allow us to come together in that way, but we also help veterans with Veterans Affairs questions and point those veterans in the right direction for any help they might need since transitioning out of the military.”
The goals of the Louisiana Warriors include expanding the support of both hockey and veteran awareness issues in Louisiana. The Louisiana Warrior Hockey team provides an opportunity for veterans to come together to support each other, enjoy camaraderie and compete against other Warrior league and charity teams. The team is always looking for fundraising opportunities to help grow their organization.
The team is also always looking for new team members, and no experience is necessary to join. All skill levels are welcome on the team. Any veteran can join.
“The biggest thing that a lot of veterans need is to feel needed and be a part of something that is bigger than themselves,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Geer. “Playing for the Louisiana Warriors gives us an opportunity to play sports with veterans, share our personal and like-experiences with being in the military, and that strong family bond of being part of the 1% of the nation that serves the country.”
For those who are looking to support or become part of the Louisiana Warrior Hockey Team, contact them by visiting their website, https://louisianawarriorhockey.com/, Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaWarriorsHockey, or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.