Paralyzed Marine Excels at Sled Hockey

When Josh Sweeney stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan in October 2009, the Marine Corps Sergeant lost both legs above the knee. Now, the Purple Heart recipient is an accomplished athlete- scoring the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team's game-winning goal to earn its third gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and receiving the inaugural Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2014 ESPYS. Sweeney's transition from Marine to injured veteran to team captain is just one example of the positive impact the growth of sled hockey has had on veterans and paralyzed athletes in the past decade.

"It's been a huge release playing with other disabled players, having people I can relate to, people I can look to for inspiration who are maybe having a harder time than myself but still pushing through all that just to be able to live," Sweeney, 28, told

Sweeney first played roller hockey in junior high school, then moved to ice hockey in high school and continued to play pick-up games when he was home in Phoenix on leave during his service years, which began in 2005. When he was at the Center for the Intrepid rehabilitation facility in San Antonio, Texas, after his injury, he learned about sled hockey and watched his first game.

"They were flying around way quicker than I thought they could, shooting the puck, passing, communicating," Sweeney, who now lives in Portland, Ore., said. "That's when I realized that sled hockey is still hockey and would be the exact same sport and I wanted to be able to do something that I did before, after being injured."

In this video, Sweeney demonstrates sled hockey technique:

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