News: Love of hockey stays with Marine from Michigan to Virginia
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
CALEDONIA, Mich - Having a frozen pond in the backyard was a perfect situation for Brent Deloach, who first picked up a hockey stick at three-years-old.
The sport has been a constant in his life since those early days in Caledonia, Mich. It has taken him away from his birthplace and across the nation to play in many different arenas, wearing many different uniforms. Now 24-years-old, he doesn’t spend his days in a jersey anymore. Instead Cpl. Deloach puts on a Marine Corps uniform and serves aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. His years in a hockey jersey helped prepare him for time in a uniform.
“When you play a sport like that, any sport really, it helps you in becoming a Marine because through the gelling process you already understand the common goal, which is working together,” said Deloach, funeral honors clerk, Tenant Activities Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion.
Deloach has been a Marine since Feb. 2009, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that he was able to combine both his uniformed pursuits and get back on the ice.
“I was just tired of not playing, I’d been here for six or seven months and just needed to skate,” Deloach added. “I wanted to find the closest rink, grab some gear and maybe play a pickup game.”
Instead some Internet research led him to the NCR Joint Military Hockey Team, a Washington D.C.-based military team comprised of active, reserve and retired members of the armed forces.
“I emailed the coach to ask what I had to do to try out; my first practice the coach turns to me and says ‘Hey, we have a game tonight, you can play with us and we’ll go from there,’” Deloach said. “So my first two shifts I got three goals and I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to work out.’”
His background has a lot to do with that. From his early days on the pond until he joined the Corps, Deloach was groomed to succeed in the hockey world, playing junior league in Colorado, Michigan and Virginia. He was talented enough to earn an athletic scholarship to Becker College, in Worcester, Mass.
“I played junior hockey with guys who are in the National Hockey League right now,” he said.
After all those years of practice, the game still comes easily to him, making his current coach happy.
“He was a pleasant surprise,” said David Morgan, the founder and team president. “Anytime you get really talented guys on the ice you can pick them out immediately. He’s already a valuable asset to the team.”
A team sport like hockey, with its tight-knit community and physical nature, is a natural fit for service members. The NCR team has more than 100 players on the roster, but due to the nature of military commitments not all can show up regularly.
“At first glance it’s surprising that there are that many military hockey players,” Morgan said, “but hockey is really big in the armed forces, it’s all over the place.”
While the level of skill may not be NHL caliber, the games are still competitive and against a variety of local college teams, other military teams, police, firefighters, pretty much anyone who wants to get on the ice.
The team has two important games coming up, Morgan said. On Dec. 1 they play George Mason University and then, on Dec. 8 in their biggest event of the year, they play the New York City Fire Department. For information visit www.ncrmilitaryhockey.com