Injured soldier finds therapy on the ice
Posted January 9, 2012
Updated January 10, 2012
It's been a long time since Pat McIlvain has had a chance to feel the chill of a hockey rink.
"The ice is where it happens for a hockey player," said Rom Alphin, one of McIlvain's therapists.
McIlvain played hockey for the University of Pennsylvania-California - better known as Cal-U. He had a passion for it.
A semester before graduation he surprised his loved ones by joining the Army and was quickly shipped off to Afghanistan. Even half a world away, McIlvain was never far from the game he loves.
In April 2010, McIlvain's world changed.
"He was shot. He was shot in the head," recalled Judy Kinnally, another one of McIlvain’s therapists.
McIlvain’s brain injury was and continues to be a challenge. He can't walk, he can't speak and requires full time care. That's where the ice comes in.
McIlvain's group of therapists thought it would be a great idea to get the hockey player back to the rink. They found a man in Raleigh who could help get the job done.
JV Cotterell runs Triangle Special Hockey - a league for mentally and physically challenged hockey players. He quickly got to work building a pushable sled for the wounded soldier.
"We typically deal with guys who can propel themselves,” Cottrell said. “When they called and said they wanted to get the guy on the ice, I said, ‘whatever we've got to do.’"
He brought a helmet, hockey gloves and even a stick.
"It's indescribable man,” Aplhin said. “I really can't tell you what it's like. It was really cool. When we got the puck out and he hit it for the first time it was cool too. You could see the hockey skills coming back. You know he's having fun.
"I'm seeing a hockey player and not a guy on a disability,” Alphin said. “This is a special day."
A day that this soldier finally gets the chance to come home.