FORT POLK, La. — Several times throughout his life Pvt. First Class Richard M. Mischak, an infantryman in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was certain that his hockey career had come to an end. Now he plays defense on the All-Army Hockey Team.
“When I played Junior Hockey, I broke my jaw in three places and thought that was the end of my hockey career,” he said. “And then when I joined the Army and thought that was it for sure.”
Shortly after he arrived at Bravo Company 2-30, one of his non-commissioned officers suggested he consider trying out for the All-Army Hockey Team, said Mischak.
After he found the application and set his mind on making the team, Mishack approached his leadership about trying out.
“From the beginning, he had our support 100 percent,” said 1st Lt. Jake A. Minicucci, the platoon leader for 3rd platoon, 2nd Bn, 30th Inf Reg. “He was working really hard here and always had an outstanding attitude, so we knew from the start he was going to be a huge asset to the All-Army Team.”
That strong work ethic and positive attitude drove Mischak to seek out every opportunity to get practice time on the ice as he prepared for trials.
“In his free time, he would often drive for hours to get to a hockey practice and put in a lot of extra work on top of our already rigorous training schedule,” said Minicucci. “It was really impressive to see his level of commitment.”
Mischak was selected to attend the tryouts for the team at Fort Drum, New York, from Dec. 27 through Jan. 1.
The tryouts culminated with a scrimmage against the Watertown Wolves, a Federal Hockey League team, which the All-Army Team won 5-3.
“Tryouts were pretty crazy; you had guys from all over the country and you’re giving up your free time on leave so it can be a hard decision,” said Mischak. “But at the end of the day it’s really the opportunity of a lifetime and we’re all there for the same reason.”
After their victory in Watertown, the final roster for the All-Army Team was selected and Mischak was on his way to Latvia to play in the 7th Open Baltic Military Winter Games Jan. 6-10.
“Being selected means to world to me,” said Mischak. “I didn’t join the Army with the expectation of playing hockey, so being able to play competitive hockey again is a dream come true.”
Despite meeting just over a week before the tournament, the team came together quickly and put on a strong performance, ultimately securing the silver medal.
They defeated Latvia Two 10-1, Sweden 4-0 and Estonia 4-0, before losing in the finals 3-2 to Latvia one.
“Hockey is a sport where you have to be connected and getting the chance to come together with the group of guys and play at this level is indescribable,” said Mischak. “At the end of the day the Army is my family and now I’m happy to get back to my guys at Fort Polk.”