Alex Knapp

A man of great strength in all areas of his life, Alex Knapp was a warrior in the truest sense of the word both on and off the ice. Tragically, after sacrificing his legs in service of his country, he ultimately lost his life playing the sport he had eagerly adopted as his own.

After graduating from Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township, Mich., Knapp attended Michigan State University for two years and was a sergeant in the Oakland County (Mich.) Sheriffs Department Explorers program before enlisting in the United States Army to become a Military Police Officer. On March 14, 2008, he and four other soldiers were severely injured when an improvised explosive device detonated on a road near Baghdad.

Knapp required amputation of both of his legs and underwent over 15 surgeries and 18 months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Finally, after multiple setbacks and complications, he returned home in September 2009.

That fall, Knapp decided to join his local sled hockey team, the Michigan Sled Dogs, despite never having played organized hockey. His athletic prowess allowed him to quickly become one of the team’s fastest skaters and, in July 2010, he was invited to a tryout for the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in Rochester, N.Y. Knapp was placed on the U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey Team, and participated in a camp with the squad in September 2010.

Then, on October 2, 2010, tragedy struck yet again. While the Michigan Sled Dogs were holding an exhibition practice in Big Rapids, Mich., as part of Ferris State University’s “Diversity Day,” Knapp began to experience chest pains. He passed away shortly thereafter from a heart attack resulting from vascular issues caused by his IED injuries.

Members of the U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey Team, as well as all players in the MidAm Great Lakes Sled Hockey League, wore his initials or jersey number on their helmets throughout the remainder of the season to honor the inspirational Knapp.

Knapp is survived by his father, Eric, mother, Jeannette, and brothers Ryan and Michael Shane.