Team spends day off helping New Orleans



The hockey players worked on three houses so that reconstruction can begin.
NEW ORLEANS -- During the Youngstown SteelHounds' current roadtrip to Louisiana and Texas, the ice hockey team stopped here earlier this week to pitch in for the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort.
The SteelHounds partnered with Mardi Gras Service Corp. and City Year to spend their day off preparing houses for reconstruction in the Lower Ninth Ward.
"This was the most devastated neighborhood after the storm," said Jim Coningsby, director for the Mardi Gras Service Corp.
Coningsby appreciated the help saying, "People think that this neighborhood was nothing but lower class with drugs but there are families who have been here for four generations and it is great to have the team give so much and help to get these families back into their homes."
Caught trainer's eye
This project was the idea of SteelHounds team trainer Mike Ermatinger who said, "When we noticed the break in the schedule between games, [Coach] Kevin [Kaminski] and I thought this would be a great way for us to give something back to people who really need the support."
Kaminski said, "When Mike brought this idea to me, I was very excited and thought it was perfect for us while we were in Louisiana.
"Nothing makes the soul feel better than helping others and to give our young men a chance to do this is an honor and privilege."
The team was broken up into three groups and worked on three houses as they removed damaged sheetrock, framing, appliances as well as many personal belongings so that reconstruction can begin as quickly as possible.
"I was choked up and called my wife when part of our job was to remove family photos and children's toys and I told her how difficult this was to see," Kaminski said.
The activities made an impression and had an impact on the players.
"The houses had big 'X's' on them showing that the house was inspected and the numbers on the bottom," forward John Wheaton said.
"Like a two would mean that they found two bodies and it was just very sad."
Players amazed
The team of mostly Canadian-born players was amazed by how much destruction was caused and by how many homes were still in shambles.
"Playing professional sports for a living can sometimes shield you from the many struggles and hurdles people have to go through," captain Jeff Christian said.
"This project certainly gave everyone a chance to help someone else and feel a little more appreciative not only in their ability to impact others but in their blessed life."
Some members of the team wanted to return the next day to keep working.
"It was just really humbling to drive through the neighborhood and see how many houses that were wrecked," goaltender David Currie said, "so to get in there and help was really something special."

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