Today we released a special edition bonus episode. Outside of our normal episode setup, you won’t hear the ‘Unleash The Fury’ or scoreboard roundup, or us acting like hooligans. This episode is a special one, as we feature the Hurricanes Sled Hockey organization. AB and I went to Raleigh, NC back in September courtesy of AB’s uncle, who supports the sled hockey program down there, and called AB one day going “Boys, LOVE the pod, you should come down and get some interviews from this sled hockey charity event, the stories are incredible.” So, we packed up the car and rolled down Friday night after work for the event that was held at a local brewery. Check some pics out below.
The event was absolutely incredible. They had an auction going on for a ton of sweet prizes, the best one of course being the TJ Oshie signed Stanley Cup Championship hat (love to see it). But everyone there was so incredibly nice and welcoming. AB’s uncle introduced us to a few people who ran the program and what not and they were all stoked we were there. We first got to meet Kelly Jacoby and her husband, parents of Tyler Jacoby (seen below) and they told us his incredible story.
Tyler was born with Spina Bifida. Before he was born, the “medical experts” said he’d have no quality of life. He wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, sit, learn, etc. Thankfully, they were so wrong, and he has a better life than anyone his parents know! His perspective is amazing and he truly believes that anything is possible. When Tyler was 2, we went to all the home Canes games. The players were young and fun and the ESA (pre-PNC) was the loudest arena in the NHL (That was 2005-2006 season- the year they won the Cup) He was an instant fan and told his parents that he was going to play hockey like them one day & pointed at the ice. They smiled and said “sure, buddy” but didn’t think they could help him achieve this dream.
He played hockey all the time- in the living room on his knees and in the street in his chair. He was not giving up. So when he was 6, they heard about TSHA (stand up hockey for those with developmental differences.) His mom reached out and asked if he could get on the ice with them and they put him in a metal, folding chair with a helmet and a big hockey stick and a buddy pushed him around the ice. He was happy.. but they wanted him to move independently, so they researched and learned about sled hockey. He was in a bucket a few months later and as far as they know, he was the first sled hockey player in the Carolina’s. He went to his first national tournament at 7 years old and played on teams from FL & TN because they didn’t have a youth team yet. Thankfully his parents have been able to raise awareness and grow, and in 2019, they had a Jr Hurricanes Sled Hockey team travel to the national tournament (ages 6-15)
Tyler’s favorite players either get hurt or traded so he’s tight lipped on that subject now. Cam Ward, Erik Cole, Mark Recchi, Scotty Walker, etc were some of his past favorites.
We had the pleasure of speaking with two coaches, Matt and Greg, from last years Carolina Jr Hurricanes U14A team. They brought Tyler in as a member of their team for the season to help with practice, stats, you name it, and the team went on to win the championship. The interview is the first in the episode.
Our next interview was with Retired Master Sargent Craig Gilbert (pictured above) This interview was a fun one, as Craig was a few beers deep (as were we) and we had some good laughs. He really opened up to us in this interview and it was truly inspiring to hear his story. He spent nearly 20 years in the special forces before an explosion nearly took his leg in 2003. All these years later, he’s still getting surgeries and doing what he can to improve on the shape of his injuries. In his words “some days, everything just hurts like a bitch.” Craig talked about how a friend of his, Brandt Ireland, another injured combat vet, turned him to sled hockey. It was truly incredible hearing how much the sport of hockey has changed his life and given him a reason to enjoy each day. As normal players like us, just going to practice after a tough day of school or anything like that, you don’t truly appreciate how much the cold wind from an ice surface blowing against your face on a hot lap can do to ones mind and well-being until you are truly in a tough situation.
Lastly, we talked to former Hurricane forward Shane Willis, who is currently working as the Manager of Youth & Amateur Hockey for the Canes, as well as a broadcaster for the team during games. Shane was an incredible interview. As the main guy at the event, and a former NHL player, we didn’t know how much he’d wanna sit down and talk to us. We figured we’d be lucky with 5 good min. Shane was awesome as he sat with us for 20 + minuets talking about everything including his career and the ups and downs, even the Scott Stevens hit in the playoffs. We also talked a lot about the event itself, sled hockey and the benefit it provides, and the growth of hockey in Raleigh as a whole. It was an awesome time, and we’ll be re-connecting with Shane on January 3rd when we head down to Raleigh for the Caps vs Canes game.
Another guy at the event we tried to get an interview with was former Capital Bates Battaglia. We were pumped to try and get him, as we had an interview written out that ONLY included Caps questions about that 2003-04 Capitals team. You know, the one with Jagr, Laich, Halpern, Bondra, Kolzig, Semin.. you name it. Unfortunately, he headed out a little early and we missed him. We’ll try to reconnect with him via phone to get you guys something cool to listen too.
You can visit the Hurricanes Sled Hockey organization at the link below, and enjoy today”s episode on Spotify, iTunes, and Soundcloud, which we’ve included below as well.