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Chilling on ice

Servicemembers take advantage of local ice rink to play hockey

Puget Sound Hockey Center hosted The Royal Canadian Air Force hockey team against NORAD Western Air Defense Sector two years ago. Photo credit: Gail Wood

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For many soldiers, it's their home away from home.

When they're on the ice at Tacoma's Puget Sound Hockey Center, when they put on their skates and grab their hockey sticks and chase that skidding hockey puck, all is right with their world.

"I think it's a way  to make it feel more like they're home," said Donna Kaufman, director of the Puget Sound Hockey Center.

For many soldiers recently returned from a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, that hockey rink in Tacoma is a place to escape and to heal. Hockey is often a connection to a simpler time in their life.

"Hockey, in (and) of itself, is sort of like a brotherhood,"  Kaufman said. "If you've got a pair of skates and you know how to play hockey, you can go into any rink and drop in."

Kaufman estimated that about 100 people who skate at the Puget Sound Hockey Center have connections to the military. They either coach their kid's team, or they're on the ice playing in the Rainier Hockey League.

Last year, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 7th Infantry Division put together a team that played in that league. But the Bayonets couldn't sign up this year.

"The Bayonets have all been deployed, so we don't have them here this year," Kaufman said. "We'll just have to wait and see if they come back. We have that a lot. They come and go."

Even with the Bayonets team gone, there are still a lot of skaters with military connections on the ice at the Tacoma rink. On many Friday nights, there are about 20 die-hard skaters on hand from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The late-night skating event for the military is called Hockey Saves.

"There's fifty, sixty on the list, and then you click if you can make it, and they do twenty at a time," Kaufman said. "Usually, it's full."

Hockey Saves, a nonprofit organization that started in 2013, pays for the ice time, which is free for military skaters. The organization started on the east coast and has grown in its three years, putting on events across the Nation.

"Hockey has a good relationship with the military guys," said Kaufman, who is also the Pacific district director for U.S. Hockey.

Puget Sound Hockey Center, 1918 Stewart St., Tacoma, 253.272.7825,

Hockey Saves,

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