It is always a special moment when hockey is recognized in the United States, let alone on an award show. However, it is even more special when sledge hockey is being recognized on the world stage. On tonight’s edition of the ESPYS Josh Sweeney will receive the Pat Tillman award for his effort with the San Antonio Rampage sled hockey team.
Sweeney helped lead the Rampage to their first ever National Championship this past season where he finished with a tournament-high 13 points, including a hat trick in the team’s 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres Sled Hockey Team. He also assisted on all three goals in the championship game.
Earlier in the year Josh Sweeney led the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team to a gold medal over Russia where he scored the game-winning goal in Sochi. He took the game into his hands and made a whole different kind of sacrifice with his electrifying goal.
However, what separates Josh Sweeney, or what qualifies him for the sled hockey team is what happened in his military days. Sweeney is a retired Marine Sergeant who lost both of his legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan in October 2009. He decided not to let the life-threatening and traumatic injury stop him and decided to rejoin America, this time on ice. For his service with the military he was awarded a Purple Heart.
For his efforts in leading the US sled hockey team and the San Antonia Rampage Sweeney will be awarded the Pat Tillman award for service at the 2014 ESPYS.
Along the journey he has become the face for the sport of sled hockey and has become the Rampage’s leader on the ice. Next season he will likely fill the captaincy void left by Andy Yohe. He has brought his military attitude to the Rampage helping lead them to their first National Championship.
This honour will truly be special as not only hockey, but the sport of sled hockey and a former Marine will be taking home honours.