Dallas Stars Pay Tribute to Team of Veterans

The Stars honored the Dallas Warriors at the American Airlines Center Tuesday night

As the Dallas Stars faced off against the New York Rangers at the American Airlines Center Tuesday night, there was a third team represented on the ice.

To start the game, Navy veteran Russ Lusk joined players from both teams for an honorary puck drop before a game he's grown to love.

It's a moment he couldn't have imagined a year ago when Chris Whipple founded the Dallas Warriors after relocating to Texas from New York.

"He realized that there was a lack of veteran hockey in the DFW area, so he put his foot to the grindstone," Lusk said. "He literally just started making calls to people back in Buffalo and figured out how he could grow this brand in the DFW area."

In its first year, it's brought together more than 80 men and women who served their country and returned home with some kind of disability.

"We have a member that has a prosthetic leg. We have members that have traumatic brain injuries from IED explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan," Lusk said.

None of which, he said, seems to matter when they're together on the ice.

"As a veteran that's suffered from PTSD from combat and things of that nature, it's allowed me to have a family that I can turn to at any time," Lusk said.

It's a family that was placed on a pedestal Tuesday when the Dallas Stars invited Lusk out on the ice for an honorary puck drop and promised proceeds from raffle sales, the mystery puck and jersey auctions. But more simply, the gesture was a show of support for veterans and fellow hockey players who understand the word "team" more than most.

"The camaraderie, the relationships, the things that we miss from being on active duty. You don't realize just how important those relationships are and how much we need them post service," Lusk said.

The Dallas Warriors are just one of several teams for disabled veterans around the country. They continue to accept new players of all ability levels along, with donations to cover ice time and tournament play.

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