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Josh Pauls: A Team Divided

By Josh Pauls, Two-Time Paralympic Sled Hockey Gold Medalist | April 27, 2015, 4:18 p.m. (ET)

Well, the tournament sure got off to a fast start. The second and third seeds (USA and Russia) in the tournament don’t usually open play at the world championships, but it sure did make for an exciting game for everyone. The fans were rocking it and this was a game that was very easy to get up for.

Playing in front of the home crowd for once was phenomenal, especially when nearly 1,500 people show up. They sure gave us an added boost with all the ‘U-S-A’ chants going on! It’s great to see the city of Buffalo embrace the world championships and we are so honored by the support. I think it’s safe to say they helped us achieve a 6-1 victory we can all – players, staff and fans – be proud of. Having three players (Declan Farmer, Josh Sweeney and myself) record multi-point efforts and seven others record a point… we sure are rolling. All of our hard work is beginning to show and our chemistry is flowing.

Declan in his Steven Stamkos jersey

Having a team made up of guys from all around the country and with various backgrounds and ages could be a struggle for some teams. This notion does not hold true to us. The way we have gelled over the past few months leaves little doubt that we are all extremely close. On the ice, we are representing the great country that is the United States, but off the ice, you may be surprised to hear we’re a team divided – at least when the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around.

Our NHL team allegiances are probably the only way we have trouble connecting – mainly because when you are rooting for one team, you’re immediately rooting against your team’s biggest rival, which may be the same team your linemate roots for.

For example, Steve Cash, Billy Hanning and I, to an extent, are huge Blues fans. Now, that does not just mean we’re pulling for the Blues. This also means that we are extremely against Chicago and Detroit due to an outstanding rivalry with those teams. During the first round there was a lot of friendly banter of us pulling for “Smashville” to beat the ‘Hawks, although that did not come to fruition. Kevin McKee and Brody Roybal, Blackhawks fans, were also rooting for the Wild to knock out the Blues, which they unfortunately did.

Perhaps the craziest part of all of this is our “red line” which consists of Kevin, Brody and Declan Farmer (a Tampa Bay fan). Their chemistry is unmatched on the ice with them accounting for 38 points this year. However, off the ice they almost seem hostile if an outsider were to peek in. The banter that goes on is actually very fun to watch with Declan coming out in full force with his Steven Stamkos jersey as well as his rally flags. While Brody and Kevin aren’t as flamboyant about their fandom, they do make their presence known by continually cheering for Detroit if only to watch Declan’s reaction.

Truth be told, we all like to give each other a hard time every once in a while, (OK, maybe all the time) but I feel like that brings us together. Despite all our differences not even the Stanley Cup Playoffs can tear us apart. Our next game will see us take on Germany and we look to keep our foot on the gas, or at least those of us that have them. Not in Buffalo and want to watch? Check us out on NBC Sports Live Extra for a live stream!

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Spud Pauls

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Josh Pauls

Sled Hockey
US Paralympics