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Get to know your Chicago Warriors

Today we will begin a new reoccurring article highlighting profiles on the different players we have in a feature called, Getting To Know Your Chicago Warriors.   For the inaugural article we begin with the only lady in our program.  Her name is Adeline Vowels and she is only the second woman to join, and hopefully not the last, in the Chicago Warriors program.  


Please introduce yourself and provide a little bit of background of what branch of service you were in and any fond memories from the service.  


Hi! I am Adeline Vowels and I am a Navy Veteran. I am 28 years old and I have an 8 year old son, Jackson. I joined the service when I was 22 years old and became an aircraft mechanic. One of my fondest memories of being in the service is when I spent Christmas, overseas/deployed in Italy, with all my fellow sailors. Spending the holiday with people I grew to know so well, while missing our own families, was a wonderful and unique experience. I was amazed at how everyone came together for one another and became family. Another wonderful experience I had, was the first time I ever got to fly in an H-60S. It was bumpy, a little scary, and thrilling.

After leaving the service, I started working in IT/Cybersecurity and earned my Bachelor’s degree in Project Management. 


Upon getting out of the service, how did you find out about the Warrior program?


The transition back to civilian life was undoubtedly challenging, but fortunately, I stumbled upon the Chicago Warriors Disabled Veteran Hockey Program. One night in St. Louis, MO, I had an unpredictable run-in with a couple at a grocery store. I never thought that random occurrence would have such a profound impact on my post-service career. I met Jesse Gippo and his wife, who played for the St. Louis Blues Warriors team and he coordinated my introduction with the Chicago Warriors shortly after. 


What does the Chicago Warrior program mean to you and how has it been with being currently the only female on the roster? 


The Chicago Warriors mean the world to me. They've given me back the camaraderie I missed from my service days and gave me another family to lean on. This team isn't just a group; they're a lifeline. A community of mentors, friends, and a chosen family who stand by me without judgment, ready to answer a call, respond to a text, or welcome me at their doorstep whenever I may need them. It also allows me to be there for my fellow brothers and gives me a sense of purpose for myself. These incredible men have embraced me, taking me under their wing. They have taught me how to play the game of hockey, how to be resilient, how to navigate life's challenges, and the beauty of facing adversity head-on, all while encompassing the sport we play.

I am not only the only female on our team…I’m the youngest, too. This has not impacted me in the slightest and makes me feel even more at home. I grew up with brothers, the military was mainly men, my current career field is mainly men, and now this program is also all male figures. They’ve taken me in as one of their own and my gender and age has had no bearing on how I am treated. I am one of them. We are a team. I would suggest to all other women thinking of joining, to come on out! If you’re a determined, head strong woman who wants to play, get on out here! This game will keep you on your toes, bring joy to your life, and give you a community you haven’t had the chance to embrace yet.


What is your favorite thing about the Warrior team?


My favorite thing about this team is the camaraderie and support they offer. They took me in, knowing I could only skate okay-ish, and had never played the game of hockey or even understood it. They took the time to teach me, and they continue to every practice, scrimmage, or game I play in. They also make me laugh, ALOT, which is my favorite thing to do. They are hysterical! Just wait until you meet Pete.. LOL. Also, free ice time…. I LOVE ice skating. Absolutely love being on the ice, and this allows me to be on the ice and even incorporate my son and family at family skates. 


Any fond memories so far on the team?


My fondest memory from this team, is when we played in the Pareti Charity Tournament Summer 2023, and I won the shoot-out. It was my first goal ever (still only goal lol) and it felt great! The guys were so supportive and encouraging, knowing I was SO nervous  and a bit terrified. Having a team so encouraging and believing in you, is what makes this so great. The cookouts, get togethers, Blackhawks games and after parties also make top of the list for fondest memories. They are one of a kind and it’s just a place you have to be! Also, I made a buddy on the ice that day, an 80 year old man, Greg. I never would’ve thought I’d be playing ice hockey with an old man! Then again, they’re all old men to me HAHA! If I had to pick my favorite person, hands down, hockey dad of the century goes to Mark Peifer. I am extremely grateful to know him. 


If you could sum up your experience, how would you explain it to someone who’s interested in joining?


The Chicago Warriors Disabled Veteran Hockey Program is more than a team; it's a refuge and a support system.  My experience has shown me this is a place of flexibility, when you cannot make every practice or game because of family obligations, or you just weren’t feeling it that day, the team is still there. It’s a place where you can stay physically active and keep your mental health clear. It's where I've found not just teammates, but kindred spirits on my journey. My experience has been fulfilling, joyful, and rewarding. 


Thank you Adeline.  To see her and all the other Chicago Warriors, stay tuned to the schedule for games to attend.   If you or someone who you think would be interested in joining, click the join us tab and fill out an application.  Stay tuned for more player profiles and other new and interesting features to come.








Warriors drop opener to Chilliana

On Saturday November 4th, your Warriors welcomed and took on Team Chilliana for the first game of the 2023-24 season hosted at Fifth Third Ice Arena.  Despite the loss, the Warriors enjoyed having Chilliana out. It helped provide the Warriors with areas to improve for upcoming game against the St Louis Blues Warriors team on Veteran's Day.  


To attend the Veterans day game hosted by the Chicago Blackhawks on November 11th, head over to the Fifth Third Ice arena located at 1801 W Jackson Blvd, in Chicago.  Admission is free and game time is at 2:40pm.  Please come out and show support for your Chicago Warrior team.



Chicago Warriors competed this past weekend at 5/3 Arena against Lawyers Hockey, The Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Fire Department. It was a great event and our hosts made us feel right at home. The Warriors went 3-0 and made it to the championship game where they fell short to CFD in a 10-4 Final. A great time was had by everyone in attendance and we look forward to more opportunities like this in the future!







Chicago Warriors
COVID-19 Update

With the lifting of the State of Illinois' Tier 3 Mitigation, we will be resuming practice on our normal schedule starting Jan. 16th      


The ice is still currently available and individuals that would like to practice skills can do so on their own. If this changes, I will let you know right away. The health and well being of our players and staff will always be the priority for our organization.

As of 3/13/2020, we are still in the planning stages for our annual Blackhawks Warriors/Blackhawk Alumni game tentatively scheduled for May 9th at The Edge on Jefferson. Depending on the status of the ongoing virus this may also change.

We will keep everyone posted on any changes that do occur. Thank you for your support and understanding!


On January 4th, the Chicago Warriors held their first Family Skate for the players, their

families and friends at The Edge on John Street in Bensenville. The turnout was great as

the night was broken down for one jour of open skating and one hour for some Stick &

Puck play. Pete Manning decided to don the goalie equipment for his debut in net. He

looked fairly comfortable considering he hasn't played goalie since his days in youth

hockey! Pizza, deserts and refreshments were served for all in attendance. Thanks to

the Chicago Mission Hockey Club for donating the ice to the Chicago Warriors for this occasion.




SEPTEMBER 24, 1965 - OCTOBER 26, 2019

The Chicago Warriors’ October this year ended on a most tragic note. Our organization lost a very dear friend, fellow hockey player and supporter, Tom Zimmerman. On October 26th, Tom tragically took his own life, shocking everyone he knew or ever touched. This is an all too common occurrence in our veteran community.

Although Tom was not a veteran himself, his unwavering support for the veteran community and especially the Chicago Blackhawks Warriors will be greatly  missed. Tom’s FloBros Hockey sponsored numerous fundraisers for our team. Great, friendly games they were as you would come to expect from Tom and his teams. He also helped support our team with apparel sales through his website and sales at our fundraising events.

Anyone who met Tom got to know an individual who was always there to give to others. His smile and wit would light up the most difficult of moments. His love for the game of hockey showed by how many different teams he formed or played on.

Tom also coached numerous youth hockey teams. He will forever be remembered by his young players as a fun-loving coach that wanted to teach others the game he loved so much. The wins and losses didn’t matter. It was the fun that was important.

The Blackhawks Warriors will never forget Tom or who he was to our team and players.

We love you , Tom! You will be forever missed and never forgotten!  TZ 13


October 19th brought these two organizations together for their annual hockey game at Oak Lawn Ice rink followed by a fantastic night of raffles, dinner, drinks, music and dancing. This has become one of the largest fundraisers for the Warriors again their year.

The game was the typically hard-fought battle between two tough teams. Again, this year as in the past, Local 281 was stingy about giving up goals, but was able to dent our net for seven goals. The final score ended up 7-3 in a competitive, but friendly contest. The biggest highlight of the game was Ben Voss scoring the “first”

Warrior goal for his career, earning him game MVP! As usual, the afterparty

stole the show. Numerous raffle prizes, silent auction items were donated by

numerous individuals and local businesses. As in the past, all of the food costs

were covered by one of the Local 281’s generous sponsors. Unlimited beverages

and music lasted well into the night. The kids couldn’t get enough of the bounce

house supplied. The annual bags tournament went on as usual. The Blackhawks

Warriors cannot thank the Local 281 Sprinkler Fitters enough for this annual event

that brings us together with them and so many the generous donors that support

our veterans. Without organizations and corporations like this, it would be near

impossible for our team to continue the way we are able. A special thank you goes

out to William Hinks and Lance Martinez of Local 281 who out do themselves every

year making this a bigger and better fundraiser to support the Blackhawks Warriors!



As of July 27, 2019 is $21,527.00

Chicago Warriors vs Team Pareti Flyer

The Chicago Blackhawks Warriors ice hockey program was founded in 2015 in conjunction with USA Disabled Hockey to give our injured military members and veterans the opportunity to play hockey in an environment suited to their needs. The program trains them in the skills needed to use hockey as a rehabilitation tool to overcome physical and mental disabilities sustained in their service to our nation.

We are a nonprofit 501 C3 organization. We depend on fundraising and charitable donations to fund our players and team. In addition to ice time, out of town games and tournaments add travel costs, meals and lodging.

To offset these expenses, we seek donations from private individuals and corporate donors.

We also play fundraising games against other teams and organizations as away to raise money for our team. If your organization is interested in playing a fundraiser game, please contact any of our team representatives.

Donations via PayPal.


Chicago Blackhawks Warriors offer a hockey home for U.S. military members

JUNE 6, 2017

By Ross Forman


















Kevin Sharwarko was skating for an Oak Lawn house league team that played host years ago to a team from Sweden. The locals lost. In fact, they were annihilated, Sharwarko recalled of the 13-1 defeat.

Sharwarko scored the lone goal for Oak Lawn and that lopsided loss still remains one of the most memorable games of his brief youth hockey career in the mid-1990s, which included a season as captain for his Chicago Blues travel team.

His other memorable on-ice memories center around the United Center and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sharwarko has, you see, skated several games at the United Center, which he tagged as, “a very surreal experience.” Sharwarko also skated with and against the Blackhawks Alumni Team this past spring in Mt. Prospect, including time on the ice alongside Stanley Cup champion Ben Eager and others.


Sharwarko skated for the Chicago Blackhawks Warriors Team against the Blackhawks Alumni Team, a high-scoring game that certainly spotlighted the strength of Chicago’s NHL team.

“Hockey really is the greatest sport, it has a lot of positive impacts in a person’s life, but even more so from the Blackhawks Warriors and (the team’s) injured veterans,” said Sharwarko, 35, who lives in Schaumburg and spent 10 years in the U.S. Army, with three deployments, until forced medical retirement.

“Hockey compiles a lot of smaller independent skills and makes you use them all at once. For example, you must be able to balance on skates and shift your weight. I personally have some balance issues from my injuries. It was 18 years since the last time I skated before joining the Blackhawks Warriors. Learning to skate again helped a lot with my balance off the ice, too.

“The hand/eye/foot coordination required to play hockey is a great way to exercise your brain too; it makes you react quickly to an ever-changing situation, just like combat. The cardio involved is always good, too, (as) a lot of our players have lost a significant amount of weight since joining and combining it with making healthier decisions at home with diet and exercise. For some, it gave them a reason to start doing cardio again since being out of the military.”


Sharwarko has been a Blackhawks Warriors skater since the team’s founding in 2015.  He is now the team captain and plays center.

“As for the team, we are a family and family is always good to have around you to celebrate the good times and (also be) there in the hard times,” Sharwarko said. “I think the biggest help hockey (offers) is, once you hit the ice, you forget about everything else.  You refocus all your energy into being on the ice, playing your best and suddenly there’s no more thinking about bad memories, no anxiety, no stress, and a bit of that adrenaline rush that is so hard to match from combat.”

Sharwarko left for the Army’s Basic Training in Fort Knox, N.Y., on March 3, 2003. His first military duty assignment and home station of first two deployments was the 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

“My MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) was for HVAC, and I also had a secondary specialty with electrical power plant, maintenance and repair for the Patriot Missile Units. I also did on-the-job training with explosive ordinance disposal in Baghdad during my second deployment,” said Sharwarko, who was deployed for 12-months in Mosul (Iraq), with close to 200 missions.

His military tours also went to Baghdad and Kuwait.

He was medically retired for injuries sustained through three deployments, including a spinal fusion with disk replacement, PTSD, TBI and severe nerve damage.

Serving Those Who Served

The Chicago Blackhawks Warriors was founded in 2015 in conjunction with USA Disabled Hockey to give injured military members and veterans an opportunity to play hockey in an environment that suited their needs. The program trains them in the skills needed to use hockey as a rehabilitation tool to overcome physical and mental disabilities sustained in their service to the country.

The team relies solely on fundraising and charitable donations for its season that runs from September through April, concluding at the annual USA Hockey Disabled Festival, held earlier this year in San Jose, Calif., and in a different city every year.

The Chicago Blackhawks Warriors compete at the Festival against other Warrior teams from across the U.S.

“Everything about the organization is special. From the great support of the Blackhawks to the people running the behind-the-scenes stuff to make it all happen,” Sharwarko said. “There’s a saying: going to war is easy; coming home is hard.

“I was and am a bit anti-social after the military, and the Blackhawks Warriors have helped bridge that gap from the military world back into to the civilian world. It’s great to see how much some people have improved in other areas of their lives since being on the team, too. I get a lot of positive feedback on how much of an impact the team has had on them.”

The bond among teammates might be new, but lasting. As if they’ve known each other their whole lives.

“Although we didn’t all serve together, we understand what each other has gone through, and is going through. I’d like to think that we’re (like) a big family,” Sharwarko said.

In the team’s first appearance at the Festival, the Blackhawks Warriors had only nine qualified players. The team is now around 30.

“All our players are dedicated to improving. Sometimes progress is slow, but it is always moving forward. It’s great to see the improvements continue up and down the bench,” Sharwarko said.

Jim Smith and JJ O’Connor, Chicagoans who both serve major executive roles for USA Hockey, serve as the General Managers of the Blackhawks Warriors.  Rich Jecman is the head coach and his son, Pat, is the assistant coach. Rich’s wife, Kathy, and daughter, Danielle, also are prominent team supporters.

The team’s alternate captains are Justin Wigg and Jacob Blome.

The Blackhawks Warriors are now an all-male team, but open to females joining and have had female players in the past, Sharwarko said. Players range in age from their early-20s to their late-40s. Skill-level is wide-ranging, too. Some have never played or skated before joining; whereas Wigg played junior hockey.

The team is a mix of military branches, yet mostly Army and Marines. And all different ranks and a vast range of service dates and number of deployments.

Many of the Blackhawks Warriors have PTSD/TBI related injuries.

Others have more physical injuries from combat and gun-fire.

“We do a lot of benefit and charity games throughout the season, mostly with other local organizations and (against) high school teams,” Sharwarko said. “It’s another great way this organization brings communities together and has had impacts outside of our locker room.”

Take, for instance, a game it had against the Nighthawks Alumni. There was a World War II veteran for the ceremonial puck-drop and a Gold Star mother whose son died in combat attended her first hockey game. Sharwarko talked to both, “and it was awesome to see and hear that they had just as much fun being there as we did playing,” he said. “(The team) is a great way to start interaction between the communities and veterans, which helps reduce the social stigma that can sometimes be related to veterans.”

The Blackhawks Warriors take the ice at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove on Saturday, July 15, for a full day of hockey action. There will be a tournament against Team Pareti from 1-9 p.m., and a Hornets sled hockey game at 4:30 p.m.

“The Pareti’s are a great family and have been putting on this fundraiser for veterans for longer than we been a team. This year, it is for our behalf and we couldn’t be more honored,” Sharwarko said. “There are so many great people involved that we have eight teams playing in the tournament. It’s very humbling seeing how many and how much people support us and all veterans.”


Around The Rink With Kevin “Shark” Sharwarko:


Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks


Favorite NHL Players, past and present: Chris Chelios and Jonathan Toews. “There are so many great (active) players, but I’d have to say Toews. He’s not hesitant about going to the front of the net; he’s dependable, and he’s a great leader on and off the ice.”


Favorite TV Show: “I don’t watch much TV, but the two shows I could binge watch are, The First 48 and Impractical Jokers.”


Favorite App: ETSY, for “hidden talents people have, and you can find some pretty cool stuff.”



Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at

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