The USA’s Steve Cash, arguably one of the world’s best ice sledge hockey goaltenders, is returning to the ice with a new back-up in 2015-16 – Purple Heart Recipient Bo Reichenbach.
At this point everybody expects Cash, who recorded a perfect 5-0 record and 0.97 save percentage at the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool to help the USA claim gold, to be the money in net again in 2015-16.
But what remains a mystery between the pipes is how Reichenbach will fare when Cash needs a rest.
Reichenbach is a former US Navy Seal who had both of his legs amputated above the knee in 2012 after being injured by a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan.
With the addition of Reichenbach and the return of Rico Roman, who took last season off to be with his family, the USA now have six Purple Heart recipients on their team.
Josh Sweeney, Luke McDermott, Josh Misiewicz, Paul Schaus – all members of last season’s World Championship team – are also Purple Heart recipients.
“Sledge hockey is one of the sports that is really competitive, has a team aspect and is very physical so it fits for us military guys,” Reichenbach said. “Within the military, everyone is really competitive with each other and you’re also banded together as a team. All the military guys sort of have a look or personality to them that’s easy to pick out on the ice.”
So how has Reichenbach, who spent the last two years playing for the US developmental team, been preparing to back up one of the sport’s all-time greats?
“I’ve definitely been watching Steve Cash,” Reichenbach said. “He’s the best goalie in the world, so he’s my biggest competition. I’d like to be better than him.
“But because I’m a double amputee, for me to be successful, I have to be a lot more mobile and explosive. He can play more positional. He gets to take away a lot of that lower part of the net and I don’t have that advantage so I have to adapt.”
At home on the ice
Reichenbach has been playing hockey since he was four years old, and prior to enlisting in the Navy in 2008, he had suited up for the Thunder Bay Wolverines junior ice hockey team.
Just three months after the explosion in Afghanistan in 2012, he started ice sledge hockey through the USA Warriors team when he was recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre.
It was actually Misiewicz, also a double-amputee injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, who pushed Reichenbach to take up the sport.
“At first I was pretty apprehensive, thinking it’s not going to be like regular hockey,” Reichenbach said. “But I got on the ice and did it, and fell in love with it immediately, and I’ve been going hard at it since.”
The biggest transition between able-bodied and ice sledge hockey for Reichenbach has been learning to change his positioning between the pipes.
“When you’re sitting down, shots are going over your head or at your head – most of the guys shoot right by your ear, right at the top of your head,” he explained. “That was my biggest struggle at the beginning, re-learning the angles and having to get away from what I learned in goal my whole life.”
Reichenbach served as an alternate captain on the developmental team last season, posting a 3-1 record, 1.15 goals against average and .907 save percentage.
Earlier this year, nearly 30 surgeries since returning from Afghanistan, he travelled to Buffalo with the developmental team to watch the World Championships A-Pool, having a chance to scout his future international opponents for the first time.
Already receiving national attention
Reichenbach has already received plenty of media attention off the ice, having been featured in the TODAY show’s ‘Make Your Today Dads’ video series on NBC to celebrate Father’s Day on 15 June.
He and his father are in the process of building a home for his family in Montana. Aware of his story, the Home Depot Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation surprised the pair with tools for their new workshop and a custom-designed off-road vehicle to help with the construction.
“My goal in life at one point was to build my own house for my family, and it’s come true now,” Reichenbach said. “After I got injured, I moved back to Montana and needed a home, so that goal became a reality.”
Reichenbach’s new home dedication is expected to take place in October, the same month he joins USA’s national ice sledge hockey team for his first official training camp of the 2015-16 season.
What a month that will be.