A Massachusetts youth ice hockey team that dedicated its season to the 10th Mountain Division and its "Climb to Glory" spirit has brought home a league championship.
The Saugus-Lynnfield Stars Bantam AA team (a group of 13- and 14-year-old players) completed its quest and "Climbed to Glory" to capture the Valley Hockey League AAA Championship earlier this month. The team also finished first during the regular season.
The team plays at Kasabuski Memorial Arena in Saugus, Mass. The arena is named after two brothers who served with the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and who sacrificed their lives in service to the country.
Born two years apart, Walter and John Kasabuski were raised in Saugas. They loved sports, and both became excellent skiers. They graduated from Saugus High School, where each served as president of the school’s ski team.
When World War II began, the brothers enlisted in the U.S. Army. Each was selected to serve with the 10th Mountain Division, which specialized in winter and mountain warfare. Most of its Soldiers were expert skiers in excellent physical condition.
From 1943 to early 1945, Sgt. Walter Kasabuski and Pvt. John Kasabuski served and fought with the 87th Regiment. Both died in combat within a month of Germany’s surrender.
John Kasabuski was killed April 15, 1945, when he was fatally wounded by a German grenade. Less than two weeks later, Walter Kasabuski was killed by a German sniper on April 27. Germany surrendered to the Allies and fighting in the European theater ended May 8.
For their bravery, valor and sacrifice, each was posthumously awarded several medals, including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
In 1964, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the town of Saugus dedicated the ice rink in their honor. There is a memorial in the lobby with their story, pictures, medals and the flags that covered their caskets.
Last year, on Veterans Day weekend, the Bantam team initiated a new tradition to recognize the youth hockey program’s special connection with the Kasabuski brothers and the 10th Mountain Division.
Before the game, the coaches provided the players with a handout giving them background on the two brothers and the division. After the game, the MVP was presented with a 10th Mountain Division jersey, provided by the 10th Mountain Division Association. At the next game, the first recipient, along with the coaches, selected the MVP, and the jersey was passed along to that player.
The team continued the tradition throughout the season, leading up to the league championship game April 6.
“We want to thank all 10th Mountain (Division Soldiers), past and present, for providing us with our inspirational theme,” said Frank Caruso, assistant coach. “The kids took great pride in wearing the MVP shirt during the year. The 10th's colors, motto and symbol fit our team perfectly.
“The kids are convinced that the helmet stickers, shirt and just the connection with the 10th Mountain and the Kasabuski brothers were instrumental in having a successful season, culminating in an on-ice championship and an on- and off-ice better appreciation for current members and veterans of the armed services,” he added.
Caruso said the team plans to continue the tradition in years to come.