When USA Hockey sought a presenting sponsor for its Warrior Classic, it found a perfect fit in Terry Fator.
A headlining entertainer at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Fator is also a hockey fan and long-time supporter of the military and military-related charities. Fator first became aware of the various hockey options for disabled athletes through a friend of his wife.
The USA Hockey Warrior Classic Presented by Terry Fator will be held in Las Vegas Oct. 3-6. It is the fourth year of the event and the second year that it is being presented by Fator, a comedian, singer and celebrity impressionist.
Fator used his combination of entertainment skills to win Season 2 of “America’s Got Talent” in 2007. He recently celebrated his 10th anniversary of headlining at The Mirage.
Warrior Hockey is dedicated to injured and disabled American military veterans who have served their nation and play the sport of ice hockey. This year’s tournament will consist of 16 teams, double last year’s turnout.
USA Hockey has programs across the nation covering six disciplines of disabled hockey — blind hockey, deaf/hard of hearing hockey, special hockey, sled hockey, standing/amputee and warrior hockey.
Fator will sing the national anthem and drop the puck at the championship game Oct. 6. The event is held at City National Arena and the Las Vegas Ice Center. It is open to the public with free admission to all events.
“This was so incredibly inspiring to see these guys, their heart, their commitment to being the best,” Fator said. “They don’t focus on what they don’t have. They focus on what they have.
“Talk about inspirational. It’s just something you have to see.”
Fator discussed his motivation for being involved in the event during an interview this week.
Q: Have you always been a hockey fan? Can you recall when your passion for the game began?
A: I grew up in Texas. Hockey was not a big deal there. No one cared about hockey when I was growing up.
I remember when the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas (in 1993) and they became the Dallas Stars. Myself and anyone else I knew in Texas was like, ‘What, hockey, in Texas?’ Who would have thought? We went to a few games and thought: ‘This is incredible.’ We loved them. It was so much fun.
We had kind of known about hockey, but growing up in a small town, just south of Dallas, people were more into rodeos and more into sports like racing. We had a basketball team with the Mavericks and the Dallas Cowboys were kind of our claim to fame, but who would have thought we would love hockey so much?
It was funny when they were telling us Vegas got a hockey team, I had so many people say, ‘I just don’t know if Vegas is going to support this.’ I said, ‘Unequivocally, yes’ because I had seen in it Dallas. Sure enough, Vegas loves hockey.
Q: You were involved in military charities before this. Can you explain what the impetus was for bringing you into that for the first time?
A: I’ve always been very passionate about the military. We were very patriotic when I was younger. It is something that was just kind of instilled in me — patriotism and appreciation for our country and those that served. I never did serve myself, but I had a lot of family in the Air Force, the Army; I had an uncle who was a Green Beret. I would listen to the stories.
Really, what kind of jarred me is when I was 8 years old, I had a good friend who went to our church, whose father, Jerry Singleton, was a POW in the Vietnam War for seven years. I have to tell you, to see this guy and what he had gone through, to hear his stories and then to see him tear up about how he was treated when he came after suffering for seven years. It really had an impact on me. I remember thinking, even at 8 and 9 years old, even you don’t agree with why they’re there, you have to support them. That’s what their job is. They don’t have a choice. They have to do what our country tells them to do. So, whether you’re anti-war or not, we have to make sure that those who are out there doing their jobs and fighting and serving, feel at least a sense of appreciation.
I have such a deep, profound appreciation and I want to make sure that type of thing never happens again where our servicemen and women feel unappreciated. That’s really what drives me to work with military charities.
Q: Is there anything particular that you took away from last year’s event, anything specific that stood out about it?
A: First of all, just the heart of these players. They are so dedicated to what they are doing. When you look at these guys, some of them have no legs. There’s an entire league that is made up of amputees or people that don’t have use of their legs. They basically sit on this sliding sled, and the heart that they play with, they’re out there playing just as hard as an NHL game. Then, you find they have games for the blind and they have a puck that makes noise. These players can hear the puck. It is amazing. Those of us, like myself, who don’t have these disabilities, just come away inspired by this dedication. Not only that, but what an amazing thing to be able to give someone a sense of purpose when God knows what happened to them when they lost the use of their legs.
You think the sense of desperation they must have felt and now they have a sense of purpose again. That’s really what life is all about — making sure all of us feel useful, that every human being has worth and purpose. Events like this really do bring that about.
Watching them out with that exuberance and being able to meet them … it makes you appreciate the triumph of the human spirit. What an honor to be a part of something like this. It’s positivity and the best of humanity and I love that.
Q: For this year, is there anything new or different that you are looking forward to bringing to the event?
A: I’m looking forward to being able to drop the puck and to singing the national anthem, which I always love doing. I’m a purist when it comes to the national anthem. I just feel too many people make singing the national anthem about themselves. To me, it’s not. It’s about honoring our country and our heritage and just what an amazing country this is. I really focus on just the meaning of the lyrics of what we’ve been through and still be able to hold our heads high.
Q: You’ll have your show and players will be attending that during the weekend. Will there be any hockey-related bits incorporated into your act?
A: I’m sure I will. I did last time as well. I had so much fun. They let me be the pretend coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates and I was able to impersonate some of those things. What a fantastic experience. Not only do you get to witness some incredible hockey, but you walk away thinking these people have such amazing hearts. It just makes you feel like you can conquer anything.
Q: You built up a little jersey collection last year. Can you talk a little bit about that?
A: I got a jersey from the Pittsburgh Pirates and they had my name put on it. So, then several of the other teams, when they were coming in to do pictures, said, ‘We can’t let you just have jerseys of them.’ I have them in my collection.
It’s such an incredible honor to get to be a part of that and to know that what I’ve done in Vegas makes them excited to be able to meet my characters and be able to take pictures with them and be a part.
Q: Are you somebody who collects memorabilia, in either area, in the sporting or military areas? Or is it unique to this event?
A: I do, especially with the military. I have many people who will come up to meet, who come to meet and greets, who give me things that I can put into my collection at The Mirage. I collect a lot of amazing memorabilia. I have flags that were flown in certain battles and flags that were flown on ships that are on display at The Mirage.
It’s a very humbling thing for them to be so appreciative. All I do is draw attention to their job and make sure they are appreciated. And, yet they are so appreciative of that. I always take that to heart. It means a lot when people give me things like that.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.