Written by Peter Quartuccio   

Wounded Warrior and Young Hopeful Participate in Team Practice and Scrimmage

TARRYTOWN, NY — The New York Rangers Sled Hockey Team welcomed two newcomers into their practice facility in Tarrytown, New York this past Thursday, January 7, Ben Wolken, a member of the Wounded Warrior Project, and Sam Greenberg, a 1st grader from Greenwich Village, New York.  With former NY Rangers player, Brian Mullen on hand to help at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility, two people with very different backgrounds came out to try the Adaptive Sport of Sled Hockey.

            Sam is a 6-year-old (“6-and-a-half,” he corrected me) New Yorker who too took part in his first sled hockey experience.  Already an athlete—Sam is a blue-belt in his Karate class— he chose sled hockey as his next sporting endeavor because, in the words of his father, “he likes going fast.”  It took some time, but Sam achieved a few good heads of steam on the ice.  What's more, even when surrounded with former and current paralympians during the team's scrimmage, a look of cool confidence never left his face.  After leaving the ice, Sam confirmed what that look suggested: he’d be back. Indeed, the experience received a shining endorsement from Sam, for when asked by his father how it went, Sam responded, “Can we come back tomorrow?”


            Ben Wolken is a Marine who was wounded in combat by an IED in Iraq several years ago.  A native of Brewster, New York, Ben initially found it very difficult adjusting to his new life as a disabled person.  Feeling isolated and alone, he admitted that his personal problems got him into a lot of trouble.  However, Ben soon found a way to deal with his troubles and alienation: participation in the Wounded Warrior Project.  Through their dedication and commitment to bettering the lives of veterans, Ben discovered a myriad of sports adapted for people with disabilities, one of which was sled hockey. Urged on by his hockey-loving wife, he decided to give it a go, and with an invite from the New York Rangers Sled Hockey Team, he took the ice in a sled for the first time.  After some initial issues with steering the at-times unwieldy sled, Ben seemed to get the hang of it, especially towards the end of the evening during the team scrimmage.  Ben received advice and encouragement from all of the Rangers, a fact which he gratefully acknowledged afterwards.  While he stated that it was “tiring” and admitted that he had trouble stopping, one could hear in his voice a shift from self-deprecation to growing confidence towards the end of the interview.  In fact, when asked if, in the event a team was short on players, he would consider suiting up and playing in the upcoming NESHL event in Danbury, Connecticut on Sunday, January 10, Ben was anything but dismissive.  That kind of confidence, along with the bravery it took to break out of his doldrums and participate, is the mark of a proud Marine, and the hope and sense of community that this practice engendered in him is what the Wounded Warrior Project is all about.


            For more information about the Wounded Warrior Project, the NESHL, and other adapted sports events, please visit www.WoundedWarriorProject.org, www.NESHL.org, and www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org


Photos by Carter Farmer


Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January 2010 22:44