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Phoenix war veteran named captain of US sled hockey team

PHOENIX — A Phoenix Marine has been named the captain of the U.S. national sled hockey team.

Josh Sweeney, a forward in his fourth season with the team, was an alternate captain a season ago. He scored the team’s only goal in a 1-0 defeat of Russia in the gold-medal game of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. He scored four goals and collected four assists in the 2013-14 season, which spanned 12 games.

And over the summer, Sweeney, a Purple Heart recipient, received the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2014 ESPY Awards.

“Josh has provided great leadership to our team, both on and off ice,” said Dan Brennan, general manager of the hockey team. “His dedication and hard work sets a tremendous standard for our other players. Nikko and Josh are terrific players and leaders in their own right. They compete with great passion and have a wealth of international experience.”

Sled hockey was created for those with lower body disabilities, as explained on the USA Hockey website.

Sled (sledge as it’s referred to outside the US) hockey was invented at a Stockholm, Sweden rehabilitation center in the early 1960s by a group of Swedes who, despite their physical disability, wanted to continue playing hockey.

Sled hockey follows most of the typical ice hockey rules with the exception some of the equipment. Players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades. There are two sticks for each player instead of one and and the sticks have metal pics on the butt end for players to propel themselves. Goalies wear basically the same equipment but do make modifications to the glove. Metal picks are sewn into the backside to allow the goalie to maneuver.