In our society, hockey players and other athletes are often considered heroes.
But ask any one of them about it and more often than not, they will point to someone else they consider to be much more heroic.
Like Todd Nicely, for example.
A native of Arnold, MO, Nicely enlisted with the Marines and was deployed to Iraq in 2008. After returning home, he was later deployed to Afghanistan, where he was placed in charge of a group of 12 soldiers. On March 26, 2010, in his fifth month of duty in Afghanistan, Nicely was performing a routine security patrol with his group when he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both arms and legs. After receiving emergency medical help, was transported to the Walter Reed Military Advanced Training Center in Washington D.C., where he received physical and occupational therapy.
Today, he lives with his wife Crystal at the Lake of the Ozarks. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the Afghanistan War to survive.
On Thursday, the Blues invited Nicely to the morning skate to meet the team. Nicely and his extended family will watch the Blues face off with the Los Angeles Kings from a suite, where they will honored during a stoppage in play.
“It’s nice to get to meet these guys and find out that they’re just like the rest of us,” Nicely said Thursday morning. “They get paid to do what they love, so it’s nice to get to speak to them and see what kind of people they are.
“It’s not often you get to meet the hometown team that you root for.”
Blues captain David Backes presented Nicely with a custom Blues jersey, while Jamie Langenbrunner took Nicely to the Blues bench to watch the team practice and also gave him a tour of the locker room.
“I look up to (guys like Todd) more than any one of my heroes growing up,” Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. “Todd is a guy that lost all four limbs and still goes out there and has a smile on his face and tries to make a difference. That’s a true hero. What we do is a luxury. What he does is a true inspiration.”
Last year, sports fans Craig and Matt Steichen decided to attend a game in every NFL stadium. What started as a simple father / son challenge has become bigger. At every game they attend, the Steichens have brought wounded soldiers along with them. Now that their football challenge is complete, the Steichens are continuing the tradition with visits to NHL arenas and MLB stadiums.
“I thought the whole thing was going to be about football, but it ended up being about giving back and trying to inspire others to go out and do the same,” Matt Steichen said. “The stories I’ve heard from these (soldiers), everything I’ve gotten to see and what we’ve gotten to experience together is amazing.”
Matt is a banker in Chicago by day. On his days off, he recruits wounded soldiers for their next sports event. Today in St. Louis, it’s Nicely and his family.
“Tomorrow, I have to be at work at 8:15 a.m. in Chicago,” Matt said. “My wife asks me how I do this. But at the end of the day, you look at (Nicely) smiling…that’s how I do it.”
Nicely’s entire 12-man infantry returned home safely from Afghanistan. And despite considering that to be among his life’s greatest accomplishments, Nicely insists he’s no hero.
“I take the term ‘hero’ loosely,” he said. “A few of my buddies are heroes. They’re the ones that didn’t come back. I tell people I’ll take ‘inspiration’ or something like that, but hero? That I’m not.
“My buddies are heroes.”
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