BY RANDY SCHULTZ –
Four years ago Luke McDermott was in Sochi, Russia watching the US Paralympic Men’s Sled Hockey team compete.
“The minute I saw them put the gold medals on, I knew I wanted to be a part of that team,” said McDermott. “I was already into sled hockey at that point.
“It was nothing too serious because I thought I would never make it to that level. But seeing those guys get those gold medals really motivated me.”
Motivated is an understatement. Here we are four years later and McDermott IS a member of the 2018 Team USA men’s Paralympic Sled Hockey team playing in the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” commented McDermott, a native of Albany, NY who grew up in Westerlo, NY. “Most people don’t get this chance.
“I’m super excited and super honored to be wearing USA on my chest.”
Not bad for a guy who grew up in a small town (Westerlo) located southwest of Albany and never played hockey.
“I played basketball and baseball, but no hockey,” remarked McDermott.
Following graduation from high school, McDermott jointed the Marines. While serving his second tour of duty with the 1st Battalion 6th Marines in June 2010 McDermott was injured by an improvised explosive device while on patrol.
With the injury, McDermott became a bilateral below-knee amputee. While rehabbing with this change of life injury, McDermott’s life would take another change.
“I was introduced to sled hockey while rehabbing at the Center for the Intrepid (located in San Antonio, TX) by my physical therapist,” recalled McDermott, who made his US National Team debut in 2015. “I actually had to learn the whole game, rules and all.
“I had never heard of the sport before. I gave it a shot and I’ll admit that I was really terrible at it.
“The guys kept encouraging me and telling me that I was getting better at the game. And I did.
“I really fell in love with the sport and really love it today.”
McDermott joined the San Antonio Rampage sled hockey team in 2010. In between hockey, he attended college where he got his degree in Political Science in 2014 from Texas Christian University.
While playing a game for an NHL sponsored sled hockey team in the Dallas/Ft. Worth against the US National Sled Hockey Team, a couple of players from the US team approached McDermott after the game.
“They told me that the coaches on their team were impressed with my play and would I consider trying out for the US team,” remembered the 30 year-old McDermott. “That really encouraged me to work even harder.
“And here I am today. I’m excited for this once-in-a-lifetime chance for gold.”
(Photo by Janet Schultz)