For many of the military members stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., hockey is an outlet they can use to get away from military life and build camaraderie with one another.
In March, as part of Discover's Day with the Cup program, Discover, the official credit card of the NHL, gave these soldiers a day they never will forget when the base's hockey team, known as the Mountaineers, was surprised with a special visit from the Stanley Cup.
The Mountaineers were formed in 2010 by solders in the 10th Mountain Division, which was stationed at Fort Drum. It includes active and retired soldiers as well as veterans and family members from the community.
"This team has been there for me and there is definitely a therapy side to this," veteran Kannon Smart said.
The Mountaineers started out with 15-25 players but have grown to around 35-40 players. They play home games at Watertown Fairgrounds Arena in Watertown, N.Y.
"It's good to have a venue that allows soldiers as they come and go to come out and skate," veteran Rob Feldman said.
They also play in a local men's league and in pond hockey tournaments. Any chance they have to play hockey is usually one they take.
"Even though we do different jobs in the military, we were all in," Smart said. "We were all a part of the same group so we all understand each other. Hockey life to me is a passion for something. This team just kind of emphasizes that. It's one of the best things I've ever been through."
On March 20 the team did media interviews but had no idea the Stanley Cup would be there waiting for them when they stepped off the ice.
"Hockey is what brings us together," Feldman said. "And that trophy, for guys that never had the opportunity to be able to be that close to it, it's an amazing thing."
Blackhawk helicopter pilot Mitch Sanik said playing with people you spend so much time with only makes the bonds stronger.
"A military bond is something special," Sanik said. "It's something that is hard to come by I think anywhere else. Playing with hockey with guys, just kind of solidifies that bond."
Discover also helped Wyatt Nelson and his father Gerry, who is blind, enjoy their Day with the Cup in Saskatoon earlier this year. Members of the St. Louis Blues were so impressed they invited the Nelsons to a Western Conference Final game and allowed Wyatt to provide play-by-play of the game. At home Wyatt does play-by-play for his father so they both can enjoy the game.