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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard prepares for Hockey Day Minnesota

Hockey Day ST PAUL, Minn- In the ninth year since its inception, Hockey Day Minnesota has quickly become the State of Hockey's showcase of talents for all ages - from peewees to the pros This year's event will be played atop an active airfield at Holman Field in downtown Saint Paul

Partnered with the organization Serving our Troops, Hockey Day Minnesota will proudly honor the service of Minnesota's Service members by presenting a military theme and also providing live feedback to the St Paul-based 34th Combat Aviation Brigade members who are currently deployed to Kuwait

To kick off the weekend's events, the Minnesota National Guard hockey team will play against the Canadian Armed Forces hockey team in a friendly border-game It is no secret that the state of Minnesota is known for hockey - men and women of all ages participate in the sport and it is certainly no different for the military members who reside here Combining both Army and Air National Guardsmen, the Minnesota team will be well-matched against a tough Canadian Team

To get ready for Hockey Day, the Minnesota National Guard's players have been getting in ice time at the University of Minnesota which generously donated its facilities Behind the scenes, however, the team's organizers have been putting together their uniforms for the big game Through charitable contributions from the organization Defending the Blue Line, the team has been outfitted with military-themed jerseys, matching socks and necessary protective equipment

Shane Hudella, president and founder of Defending the Blue Line, is no stranger to being "uniform," as he served alongside many of the players in the Minnesota National Guard before retiring to take on his new venture with DTBL The organization was first started in 2009 with a mission to ensure that Service members and their children are afforded every opportunity to participate in the game of hockey

"Hockey players are able to perform at their best when they have the right equipment and I wanted to make sure the players of the Minnesota National Guard were outfitted right," said Hudella

One piece of equipment in particular is unique in the game of hockey, being worn by a goalie, the "mask" is often times painted to display the individual personality of the wearer Hudella was able to put Minnesota National Guard's Maj Darrin Janisch in touch with professional hockey goalie mask painter, Todd Miska, who designed and painted his mask for him Miska surprised Janisch with a military-themed mask just in time for the game Miska's work is well-known in the National Hockey League and worn by many of its players

"It is an honor to deliver a mask for this warrior," said Miska who surprised Janisch even further by donating his time and work free of charge

"We are the world's leading military for a reason," said Hudella "We may not win every battle, but we always leave everything on the table I expect the Service members on the Minnesota National Guard team will do just that and if they give one hundred percent, the team will prevail"

January 15, 2015
by Tech Sgt Paul Santikko
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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