Beyond the game: Hockey team creates brotherhood for military veterans transitioning to civilian life

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Blackhawks Warriors are a team of military veterans in the Chicagoland area who have created a brotherhood beyond the game, making this team unique.

These heroes in combat turned competitive warriors on ice are now in their 5th season as a team.

"We primarily work with Veterans. You have to have a minimum 10 percent disability and we encourage every veteran in the Chicagoland area, whether they are a veteran or not, to come out and actually practice with us," said CJ Seestadt, Blackhawks Warriors assistant team manager.

Seestadt said being a part of the team reminds the players of the comradery they had in the military.

"It's no coincidence they feel right at home after a practice or two," he said. "We aren't just a team, we really are a family."

"It kind of picks up where we left off in the military, you don't really get that in the civilian world," said Blackhawks Warrior Kevin Shawarko. "We have it now in Chicago."

Shawarko served in the Army, from Hawaii to Iraq, for 10 years. He said being on the ice is a confidence booster and helps readjust to civilian life.

"A lot of people struggle with it and that's where the suicides come into play," he explained. "So this has been a good gap for those transitioning service members."

"Having these guys here, understanding what we've dealt with -- it's that family, that brotherhood that helps us through the tough times," said fellow teammate, William Lipke.

Through brotherhood, comradery and raising awareness to prevent veteran suicide, The Blackhawks Warriors are far more than just a hockey team.

"This is one of the biggest things we try to raise awareness about, are 20 veterans are committing suicide every day in America," Seestadt said. "We're trying to do our little part to help cut that number or even to lower that number and eventually eradicate it."

"If you're looking for that brotherhood and comradery you're missing in the civilian world, I would say regardless if you even like the sport of hockey," Lipke said. "Come out, hang out, there are plenty of things you can do if you want to be part of the team. Just come on out you're going to find something you've been missing."

The team wants female veterans to know they are welcome too. The Warriors are on the road but have a big game coming next month for Military Appreciation and Hometown Heroes Night.
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