By TED MEBUST
COOPERSTOWN – The New Jersey Warriors, a hockey team composed of disabled U.S. military veterans, are set to visit Cooperstown from February 17-19. Hosted by the American Legion, a benefit will be held on the team’s behalf at VFW Post 7128, 60 Main Street, on that Friday evening. After a police escort from their hotel, the team will enjoy catering from area businesses including Council Rock Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, and Chobani, and an auction will take place with the proceeds going to the Warriors. On Saturday, the group will get a tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and then play a game at Badger Park at noon, inviting all community members to join them on the ice.
“It should be a fantastic event,” said Barry Shelley, the team’s local contact who has been a longtime hockey fan, even setting up a small ice rink in the attic of his Fly Creek home.
“Saturday is mostly just a fun skate, so if people want to come down, meet the veterans and skate with them, they are welcome to,” Shelley said.
Shelley explained that his involvement with hockey while serving in the Air Force had been a very helpful outlet for him. From the connections he made during that time, as many as 100 veterans from across Maine, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Ohio and Ottawa, Canada will come to Cooperstown to meet with the Warriors next month, he said.
The New Jersey Warriors hockey program is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing rehabilitation opportunities for wounded veterans from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Founded in 2019 and affiliated with the New Jersey Devils, the team plays at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The Warriors compete in regional and national tournaments across the country, most recently in St. Louis, and are led by President Mark Puttenvink and Executive Vice President Ted Curtin.
“Our mission is simple: to provide a therapeutic community for veterans…at the end of the day, it’s about the community,” said Puttenvink, a former strength and conditioning coach for various professional teams, who founded the team and organizes their charity events and activities.
Puttenvink said that in addition to the Cooperstown events, the team will catch a Utica Comets hockey game on Saturday night, another New Jersey Devils team affiliate. They will be accompanied throughout the weekend by a film crew from Montclair State University.
To learn more about the New Jersey Warriors and to support their mission, visit njwarriors.org.