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Hockey Telecast to Feature U.S. Servicemembers in Kosovo

By Tech. Sgt. Jason Smith, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

PRISTINA, Kosovo, Nov. 29, 2007 – Versus, the U.S. cable television home of the National Hockey League, has partnered with some troops deployed to Kosovo to give an early Christmas present to the peacekeepers there and their families at home.

At 7 p.m. EST on Dec. 11 , everyone watching the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Philadelphia Flyers on Versus will get to see some pictures of the American soldiers, airmen and sailors who are serving at Camps Film City and Bondsteel, Kosovo.

At the same time their pictures are being shown on television in the United States, the troops will be gathered at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center at Camp Film City to watch the game on the American Forces Network. Due to the time difference, the game starts in Kosovo at 1 a.m. Dec. 12, but the late start won’t discourage people from showing up. According to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jay Valloric, one of the event coordinators, it’s easy to stay up because he knows his kids will be watching for him at home in Ohio.

“Most of us will be here through Christmas and New Years,” Valloric said. “I would rather be at home, but since that’s just not possible, I think it’s great that my kids will get to see me and know that I’m doing OK.”

The idea for the game came about in an unusual way. A small group of troops gathered for the Oct. 24 game between the Penguins and Rangers. A story was written about the game and sent to Versus. Eventually, Michael Baker, coordinating producer of the National Hockey League for the cable network, received an e-mail with the story. Baker contacted the author of the story to thank the troops for watching the game.

“Mike was happy to hear that we watched the games,” Army Sgt. Kai Tonti said. “He said if we wanted, he would try to show the photos that he received from the initial story during a future game we would be watching. Of course we were excited about it, so we said, ‘Yes.’ We were telling the other people here about it, and the idea just grew that it would be nice to do a live feed like they do sometimes during the Super Bowl.”

Baker was onboard with the troops’ idea, but mission requirements at Camp Film City trumped the valuable resources needed to pull off the transmission. The team putting the event together on the Kosovo side quickly started gathering troops for pictures that could be shown during breaks in the action.

“Our mission here doesn’t make the headlines at home the way Iraq and Afghanistan do,” Valloric said. “No one here is complaining, because the conditions aren’t as bad as a lot of people have it, but we still miss our families, and to get some of our pictures on TV is a real morale booster.”

In addition to American troops, other NATO and Partnership for Peace troops will be on hand at the MWR Center to cheer for their favorite team and watch the live broadcast. Camp Film City, which serves as the Kosovo Force Headquarters, is a deployed home to troops of 34 nations.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Smith serves with the Kosovo Force Public Affairs Office.)

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