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Members of the U.S. National Men's Hockey team dined with Marines at Malachowski Hall during a visit to Marine Corps Base Quantico. NHL players Dustin Byfuglien, Justin Abdelkader and Matt Niskanen converse with Marines in this image.

Photo by Glenn Johnson

The US National Men’s Hockey Team meets another elite team at Quantico

13 Sep 2016 | Valerie O’Berry Marine Corps Base Quantico

The United States National Men’s Hockey Team, consisting of the elite professional players of the National Hockey League, got to meet another elite team – the Marines – when they visited Marine Corps Base Quantico Monday to have lunch with the Marines and learn how to shoot Marine weapons.

“You put two elite teams together before we play Finland and I think there is no better place to build upon an elite team than by visiting another elite team[the Marines],” said Lt. Col. (ret.) Sean Braziel, development coach for the US National Men’s Hockey Team. This is just one of the reasons the hockey players were excited about meeting the Marines serving at Quantico. Another reason was that they admire those who serve their country.

“They [Marines] don’t take any credit for what they do,” said John Tortorella, head coach of the U.S. National Men’s Hockey Team. “It is amazing how selfless they are.”

“They do real-life stuff -- that’s what we want to talk about,” said Ben Bishop, a goalie for Team USA and for the Tampa Bay Lightening. “They cast a huge shadow over us. It is really cool to get out of the norm and meet the Marines and it really puts things in perspective for us.”

“What they do is harder than what we do,” he said.

From the Marines’ perspective, it was exciting to get to meet some of their favorite hockey players. At Malchowski Hall, the Marines and hockey players had lunch together. Sgt. Fuentes, Weapons Training Battalion, got to meet one of his favorites – L.A. Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick.

“This is the very first pro athlete I’ve met,” said Fuentes with a smile.

Quick said it was special getting together with the Marines. “I had a good friend that was a Marine,” he said.

Lots of the players and coaches have similar ties to the military, whether it is a family member serving, a friend or even a father or mother who served, according to Dave Fisher, public relations representative for Team USA.

“We admire them for what they do,” said Fisher of the Marines. “And hopefully, we provide some entertainment value in return.”

After lunch, the hockey players went to Range 305, where they got to shoot military weapons under the guidance of Quantico’s Weapons Training Battalion. The hockey players got hands-on training on the M9 Beretta, Colt 95 CQB, M27IAR (a fully automatic weapon) and the M16A4 Carbine. The instructor said that the players were doing a good job because the green Ivan’s “were going down.” (A green Ivan is a human-shaped green target that lays down when it gets hit, then pops back up.)

Ryan Suter, a defenseman with the Minnesota Wild, said getting to know the tools the Marines work with was very special. “It’s fun. I grew up not really being around guns, but it is neat to be able to do it and kind of live their life for a while,” he said.

When asked about the controversy surrounding the National Anthem, in which some pro athletes have taken to kneeling, sitting or raising their fist during the playing of it to protest police shootings and other brutalities, Tortorella said he doesn’t think it will be a problem with the USA Hockey Team.

Specifically, Tortorella said that Team USA believes in theflag and the men and women who fight for it, such as the Marines and all others who serve in uniform. He doesn’t anticipate any protests because he says the team doesn’t believe in protesting in that way.

“We will be standing where men and women sacrifice their lives every day,” said Tortorella. “They have the right to protest but there is no reason to do it [using the National Anthem].” He said he believes strongly that the flag and the National Anthem should not be used in this way. And, he thinks the team feels the same way.

Catch the action of the U.S. National Men’s Hockey Team tonight when they play Finland beginning at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

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