WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was much more than a game for three Columbia City hockey players.
The Northeast Indiana Warbirds played a game in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19. The Warbirds played the USA Warriors team that consists of wounded U.S. military personnel. The Warbirds won the game 7-3, but most importantly raised money for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Mike Petersen, Casey Craig and Cory Dear were Columbia City residents who played in the game.
The Northeast Indiana Warbirds, formally the Whitley County Warbirds began their third season of play in September. The Warbirds raised $17,000 during the past two seasons for military and Whitley County charities. The Warbirds have put in 200 hours of community service in the county.
“Everything we receive is donated,” said Warbirds president and captain Casey Craig. “That’s why we need the community’s support. We do have some sponsors who help us out, because hockey is an expensive sport.”
Craig spends his time finding other hockey teams to play both in Fort Wayne and on the road. Their team consists in players ranging from their lower 20’s to 60 years old. The teams they play are similar in age.
“It’s a lot of fun. We form relationships with teams, and talk shit over Facebook leading up to the games,” Craig said.
The trip to the nation’s capital was particularly a great experience for the Warbirds.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “We took in all the sites and landmarks, and spent Saturday sight-seeing. It was a humbling experience to see all that stuff, and they (the USA Warriors) took us to a Washington Capitals game that night. We chilled out, watched some NHL and talked trash with each other. It’s crazy out there. It isn’t Columbia City, that’s for sure.”
The game between the Warbirds and the USA Warriors was at the Washington Capitals practice facility. The highlight of the trip was forming relationships with the USA Warriors.
“Going out there to play these guys, they’re all wounded, Purple Heart recipients or retirees,” said Craig. “You take them in a whole different way than just another hockey team. We look at them as heroes. I get emotional about those guys. They fight for us and the least we can do is play hockey and raise money for them. It’s heartwarming, and all about respect.”
The next game the Warbirds play will be against a similar military team Jan. 6 against the Michigan Warriors in Fort Wayne.