CHICAGO — A squad of American Paralympians took over the ice at the Blackhawks training facility this past weekend, as the team members — several of them military veterans — prepared to represent the U.S.A. at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
When Team U.S.A.'s sled hockey squad competes in the games Saturday, among them will be Marine Corps veteran Josh Misiewicz, who lost both his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan. The La Grange native turned to sled hockey as part of his recovery.
"Honestly, I don`t know where I'd be without hockey right now," he said.
The graduate of Lyons Township High School has been on the ice as long as he can remember. Then while he was serving in Afghanistan, he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
"When you first get injured, you don`t know anything. You don`t know if you`re going to walk any more, get a girlfriend. You don`t know anything. Honestly, you`re in the dark," he remembers.
From that darkness, came light. Josh lost both of his legs, but found a new goal after discovering sled hockey in 2011.
"I played hockey my whole life. From high school to college to men`s league to after getting injured in the military. Finding out about sled hockey, it changed my life," Misiewicz said. "It`s a fast-paced, hard hitting sport and I love it. I never used to hit in college. I was a little dancer. Now, I love hitting people, scoring is fun too."
Getting back on the ice also helped his recovery, while connecting him with a network of men going through the same struggles.
"It literally made my recovery better. I met a great group of guys. We pushed each other to walk more, play hockey, have fun, go out,' he recalls.
The players of the U.S. men's sled hockey train together, play together and live together — 17 of them — in the suburbs.
"We had camaraderie already because of the training camps but now you`re getting the smaller stuff too, like cooking together, cleaning together, getting rides together," Misiewicz said. "We`re one unit now. And we have to stay that way or else the house is going to fall apart!"