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Saving lives one game at a time

Military unite through the game of hockey

Hockey Saves Washington chapter poses in June. Photo credit: CW3 David Bruce

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Military servicemembers understand being in a team-driven environment, so it's no wonder why Hockey Saves, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit, is saving military members around the nation one puck at a time. But this organization is offering a little bit more than just time on the ice.

Hockey Saves is saving people in more ways than one. "Saves" are a good thing in the hockey world. You've probably heard such phrases as "nice save," but the game itself is saving many people.

According to CW3 David Bruce, Hockey Saves is an idea that started out with a few New Yorkers that lived through the attacks on Sept. 11 that wanted to say thank you to military members through hockey.

"Primarily, donations are used to buy ice time for servicemembers to play pick-up games of hockey around military bases," said CW3 Bruce, who plays hockey in the Rainer Hockey League (RHL) in Tacoma.

JBLM President of the local Hockey Saves chapter, CPT Marcel Alvarez, made the call back in 2014 to the Hockey Saves CEO to get a local JBLM chapter started. "I thought ‘why not the Pacific Northwest?'" said Alvarez, who was recruited to play Division 1 hockey at West Point, went on to be the graduate assistant for their hockey team, as well as played in an east coast hockey league. Playing hockey his whole life in Ohio, he was looking to fill the void, and Hockey Saves provided just that. In June 2015, they held their first game.

"In about two years' time, the organization has provided about seven hundred military servicemembers and their families with ice time, tickets to games, and sent care packages to hockey-playing servicemembers that are deployed. A few soldiers have even got to participate in some meet-and-greet events with NHL teams that include the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks, and the amazing Detroit Red Wings," said CW3 Bruce.  

CW3 Bruce chose to participate and continues to participate because of the camaraderie gained while playing. "Sports and military both share a team-like feeling that are unmatched in most other walks of life; to combine the two is a no-brainer," he said. "There is no rank on the ice; there is no commander, but there is a tremendous amount of respect for each other and it's a unique way to get some great physical training (PT)."

Currently, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Nashville, and most recently Washington state have active Hockey Saves teams or groups.

The local chapter schedule consists of monthly skates and games played at the Puget Sound Hockey Center in Tacoma, where they divide themselves into two teams and play against each other. "It is not a program to learn to skate or learn how to play; however, if you know how to play and have your own gear - the more the merrier," said CW3 Bruce. "We will also be sending players to play for Hockey Saves at the Armed Forces tournament in Las Vegas over Veteran's Day weekend," said CPT Alvarez.

The next skate is scheduled for July 15 at 6:40 p.m.

Visit the Hockey Saves website at or at their Facebook page. You can also contact CPT Alvarez directly at

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