As the son of a United States Marine, Jaime Sifers always understood the importance of using his platform to show his support for the military.
So when the Utica Comets became the first-ever pro hockey team to be designated as a Purple Heart Organization, he knew it was a process he wanted to be active with.
“The whole meaning behind the designation is so meaningful around here,” the Comets defenseman said. “The military presence around Utica is huge. The passion behind everyone sitting around the table was amazing to be around.”
Before their game against Hartford on November 9, the Comets received a proclamation establishing the team as a Purple Heart Organization for their continued efforts to honor veterans and active military in the community.
In addition to the fundraising efforts and appearances, the Comets recognize a hometown hero during at every game. Following the game, Sifers carves time out of his night to visit with each honoree.
“They’re the ultimate teammates. They’re putting their lives on the line for people they don’t even know,” he said. “It’s all for the flag and it’s all for the country. Their commitment level is something I respect so much.”
The Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium opened in 1960 and was built as a war memorial arena, dedicated then and maintained now for those who served the country in the armed forces.
“When I first signed here, I did a little research on where I could be moving to,” Sifers said. “It’s a war memorial arena. Right away… chills. There is so much pride in having one be your home rink.”
Sifers has always prioritized giving back to the community. He has twice been nominated for the AHL’s Man of the Year award, and he was the recipient of the Comets’ Thomas M. Lindsey Dedication to the Community Award during the 2017-18 season, which was presented to him by the Utica Police Department.
In his 13th year of pro hockey and at the age of 35, Sifers is the second-oldest player in the AHL. While the intention is to play as long as his body and mind allow him to, he knows that eventually the time to hang up the skates will come. But when hockey is over, he has no intention of slowing down his involvement with local military, wherever he may be.
“We’ve had some discussions amongst friends how I can continue doing this. There’s no way it’s going to stop when my hockey career stops.
“Right now I can’t say exactly what I’m going to be doing. But it won’t be lost.”