Military Children Receive Charitable Assist From Hockey
Military children receive charitable assist from hockey
By Rocky Bonanno - NHL.com Staff Writer
Shane Hudella lives in the State of Hockey, born and raised in Hastings, Minn.
He and his wife have a growing family -- they are two children short of icing their own hockey team. While still in high school, Hudella enlisted in the National Guard and has now served in the military for 22 years, a career that includes deployment in Operation Desert Storm and training missions overseas. He took up playing hockey in his teens and now competes on the National Guard team -- with a championship to his credit -- in addition to rooting for the hometown Wild.
To say Hudella is just another hockey fan/player/dad is way off the mark. A self-described fanatic with altruistic values, it's his desire to help his fellow soldiers that has Hudella working long hours that rival a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Hudella, 39, is the co-founder and president of Defending the Blue Line, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization created by soldiers with the goal of keeping hockey alive for the children of our nation's military heroes. Hudella and his colleagues accomplish that mission statement by running camps and special events, as well as providing free equipment and financial assistance for registration fees and other costs associated with hockey.
"I have a number of other full-time colleagues in the Minnesota National Guard, and there's a group of us that are hockey fanatics," Hudella told NHL.com during a break from his busy schedule. "The majority have been deployed multiple times since 9-11, and myself and the core group, all of us buddies and peers on a hectic schedule, wondered what happens to kids and hockey when their parents go away.
"I have four boys, three in hockey programs, and my wife would have a super tough time the next time I'm tapped to go somewhere."
It's an admirable gesture on Hudella's part, wanting children to enjoy hockey while the stress of military life turns parents into soldiers. Minnesota has done more than its part in supplying talent to the NHL, and with hockey so popular and leagues available at so many age levels, the mission of Defending the Blue Line was and never will be developing the NHL's next 50-goal scorer. But if it happens, great!
"The big part of it is, A) helping military families with struggles and obstacles when parents are deployed," Hudella said. "Say a mom has been deployed in the last couple of years, and the dad is not in the military. All of a sudden he finds himself at home, a single dad for the first time in his life with three or four kids. There are ways we can help out financially with the cost for the gear, making sure the kids stay plugged in with their hockey program, and keep them interested. It's a great way to get the stress and worries out of their mind.
"(And) B) are the smiles we get, the thank you's. Last season we got 500-plus military family members together to attend a Wild game. For me, it tells me that for brief periods of time we got to take away the worries and stress of deployment and parents being gone."
The spark that led to the Wild outing, and ultimately the legitimization of Defending the Blue Line, came from defenseman Brent Burns.