Today at Chelsea Piers in New York City the third annual Inspire Games will get underway.
The games are hosted by the FourBlock Foundation — a group that helps veterans become career-ready once their military service concludes. The games features five sled hockey teams competing tournament style against one another, with all proceeds from the event going to the foundation and towards supporting wounded Marine veteran Ralph DeQuebec, a FourBlock alumnus who is training for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
DeQuebec, who lost both legs above the knee and suffered numerous other severe injuries after an IED (improvised explosive device) in Afghanistan, has found renewed purpose in sled hockey where he’s been given the moniker “Wreck It Ralph” due to his penchant for throwing big hits on the ice in sled hockey games.
DeQuebec is the co-captain of the U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey Team and he joined CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show to discuss the sport, his Olympic aspirations, and his long road to recovery.
But first, how did he even get into playing sled hockey?
“It took about a week for them to convince me to come play,” DeQuebec told DA. “And it actually took them to talk to my wife and ask her, and finally she laid down the law and said ‘you need to go play.’ I think it really was that she wanted to get the guys off her back (laughs). But it’s been the best decision that we’ve made together so far.”
From there, it didn’t take too long for DeQuebec to get hooked by the sport.
“So we played our first friendly game against a Philadelphia team, and I checked one of their biggest players into the boards, flying from one side of the ice to the other side of the ice… should have been charging, now that I know the rules,” DeQuebec said. “But I went ahead and hit him into the boards, sticks went flying, and I was looking around for a whistle, but there was no whistle. Sold. This is going to be my sport.”
For DeQuebec, and hundreds of fellow wounded warriors, finding a way to exert aggression and energy in a positive way has been vital to his life after his injuries.
“The way I explain it is I was an alpha male, combat proven, and just always wanted to be in the mix,” DeQuebec explained. “Then getting hurt, and being on a hospital bed and trying to figure out what life is going to bring and not knowing any answers, sled hockey was definitely a turnaround for my recovery, I did a total 180. I was going into depression, lack of identity, and just didn’t know who I was anymore. When I started playing sled hockey, I identified with sled hockey. It gave me something to wake up to, something to get better at every day, and I live, breathe, and sleep hockey now.”