News: Senior airman leads multinational hockey league
Story by Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
SOUTHWEST ASIA - Stateside service members can watch a variety of sports almost every day of the week depending on the season and time of year. Sports fans can enjoy professional football on Sunday and Monday, hockey, basketball or baseball Tuesday through Thursday, boxing on Friday and college sports on Saturday.
At the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, Senior Airman Daniel Nester, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron, Force Protection, serves as a player, referee and commissioner of a multinational hockey league, all to keep his favorite sport up and running at his deployed location.
"I started playing hockey in my neighbor's driveway when I was five and I played ice hockey in junior high school," said Nester . "My cousin took me to my first St. Louis Blues game and I've been a hockey and Blues fan ever since."
A late evening chance PT session would reunite Nester with his favorite sport in the most unlikely of places, Southwest Asia.
"I found out about the league in early December 2012 when I just happen to be in the gym on a Friday night and they were playing hockey," he said. "I went out and played the next couple of Friday's and I got a lot of positive compliments about my knowledge and insight for the game of hockey."
When approached by the redeploying commissioner about taking over the league, Nester jumped at the opportunity.
"Instantly I had made up my mind and given him the decision that I absolutely wanted to do it," he said.
Over the next couple of weeks he would get his feet wet with the administrative side of the game while also playing and refereeing matches.
"I had to organize the schedule, keep the statistics, set up the games, organize the playoffs, the Championship game, and the All-Star game," he said.
While he would rather simply play the game he loves, he knows being an active commissioner will keep the league going.
"Everything reflects on the commissioner," he said. "You are responsible for keeping it at a profession level yet making it exciting to where people want to get out there."
The seemingly endless turnover of personnel during deployments is another challenge the young commissioner will soon face.
"The hardest part which is coming soon is keeping people in the league despite rotations," he said. "It's hard to get the word out when you over have half of your league redeploying back to the states or to their home stations."
Fortunately for Nester, he receives a lot of support from coalition service members whose national pastime just happens to be hockey.
"The Canadians are always a great help," he said. "They arrive early when they have late games and they are always willing to come down and offer some expertise."
The league's final match of the season pitted the undefeated Canadian team versus the 12 best players from the league's other four teams in an All-Star type match-up for bragging rights and the coveted hockey trophy.
"The Canadians are a very skilled hockey team, but it is possible to put a team together to beat them," he said.
While Nester's assembled All-Star team fell short 7 to 3, the camaraderie and sportsmanship displayed during the game was a testament to the Nester's determination to make the hockey league a success.
"I love the game of hockey and if I leave the league better than I found it, better than when it was given to me, then I would say I was successful as commissioner," he said.