The NHL has embarked on an initiative to help promote mental health, physical wellness and camaraderie in the military community through hockey.

The League has partnered with Warrior for Life Fund, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that supports active duty, veterans, retirees and their families through sport and community as they navigate the challenges of combat deployments and life after service.

"I don't know who we can partner with that's bigger than this, maybe Space Force," said Ryan Croley, a retired Navy captain and Navy SEAL who founded the fund. "Partnering with the NHL, we're in pretty good standing. It's pretty amazing."

Through a $35,000 contribution, the League is sponsoring annual memorial games in Virginia Beach, Virginia, San Diego and Boston that bring together NHL Alumni and Naval Special Warfare personnel.

The Brian Bourgeois Weekend is July 12-13 in Virginia Beach with Navy SEALs, their families and Boston Bruins Alumni; the Nicholas Spehar Memorial Weekend Aug. 9-10 in San Diego with the SEALs, their families, and NHL and Bruins Alumni; and the Nathan H. Hardy Memorial Weekend is in Boston on Dec. 6-7 with the SEALs, family members and Bruins Alumni.

The NHL will also commit $15,000 annually to the Warrior for Life Fund's Human Performance Center to support cognitive skills training and community engagement for the Naval Special Warfare community.

"This partnership exemplifies the League's dedication to supporting the men and women -- and their families -- who currently serve or have served our country," said Jared Maples, senior executive vice president and chief security officer at the NHL. "The Warrior for Life Fund plays a pivotal role in facilitating this support through initiatives that connect military families with the spirit and community of hockey.

"There's really no better way to do this than through our wonderful game. We are truly honored and humbled to support those who dedicate themselves to our nation."

The Warrior for Life Fund is the brainchild of Croley, who was assigned to SEAL teams for 26 years and is living through the mental and physical effects of 12 deployments. He began playing hockey to alleviate loneliness and stress while he was stationed at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.


"Hockey was one of the therapeutic tools that really helped me cope with life back here in the States," he said. "I learned the game late, and I saw the benefits, not just the companionship and camaraderie, but also the benefits from the cognitive health standpoint.

"I saw the results personally, and I just wanted to give others the same opportunity .... A lot of guys are dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome, a lot of guys are dealing with family situations, isolation. All the bad things, hockey kind of allowed us to open that up."

Croley's effort began as the Virginia Beach Hockey Club in 2012 and was rebranded as the Warrior for Life Fund about five years ago in partnership with the Bruins.

The program has about 300 skaters who are SEALs, retired SEALs and veterans. Warrior for Life also has a development league and adaptive hockey program.

"I've had some SEALs skating in that that have lost limbs and become disabled for one reason or another," he said. "We have some folks who were born with spina bifida and are being the best athlete that they can ever be. Putting those two groups together is incredibly healing for both sides. One looks at one, one looks at the other and they're like, 'Hey, this isn't so bad.'"

The Bruins have been active with Warrior for Life Fund, their alumni team playing teams of retired, active duty and disabled veterans several times over the years.

"The Boston Bruins have been a great partner, and we wouldn't be where we are without their partnership," Croley said.

To learn more or to support the Warrior for Life Fund, please visit: