Mark McKenna, left, coach of the Mountain Warriors Sled Hockey Team, and Frank Cipra, right, professional graphic and airbrush artist, meet with Jacques Parker, a World War II veteran assigned to C Company, 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, who provided inspiration and artwork for a new goalie mask for the Canton-based team. Left: The finished goalie mask designed by Frank Cipra includes iconic artwork that Parker created. (Photos courtesy of Mark McKenna)
Local sled hockey team draws inspiration from 10th Mountain Division, WWII veteran
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 4, 2019) – When a new goalie joined the Mountain Warriors Sled Hockey Team in Canton, coach Mark McKenna had an idea about the headgear that the new player would wear.
McKenna, a civil engineer with the U.S. Corps of Engineers at Fort Drum, started the adaptive sport program in 2011 and grew a roster of wounded and disabled service members and athletes. While the team is not affiliated with the 10th Mountain Division, McKenna said it is composed mostly of Soldiers from the Warrior
Transition Battalion and disabled athletes in the community.
“This past spring, I picked up an extra player – a goalie – from the WTB, and so I wanted to pay tribute to the 10th Mountain Division Soldier,” McKenna said.
As a member of the 10th Mountain Division, Jacques Parker led a machine gun squad during the assault on Riva Ridge and crossing of the Po Valley during World War II. Parker was able to sketch his experiences of military life while training at Camp Hale, Colorado, and during his combat deployment to the Italian Alps. (Photo illustration by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Over the past couple of decades, goalie masks have become as famous as the athletes who wear them, due to their bold, attention-grabbing graphic designs. Knowing this, McKenna found the perfect canvas for the tribute.
The design concept was to have a World War II mountain trooper on one side and a modern-day light infantryman on the other. In his research, McKenna came across a poster of a 10th Mountain ski trooper and contacted the artist for permission to use the image on the goalie mask.
The artist who originally sketched the combat mountaineer happens to be one himself.
Jacques Parker was assigned to C Company, 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment, and led a machine gun squad during the assault on Riva Ridge and crossing of the Po Valley during World War II. He also was known for his artistic talents, sketching his experiences of military life while training at Camp Hale, Colorado, and during his combat deployment to the Italian Alps.
As the division’s resident illustrator, some of Parker’s sketches made it on the pages of the Blizzard, the unit’s official publication. His artwork also was featured in the 1950 regimental history, “Mountaineers,” to include a portrait of Maj. Gen. George P. Hays, division commander. After the war, Parker continued to work as an artist.
McKenna enlisted his friend, Frank Cipra, who specializes in painting goalie masks, for this project. The final product also would include the words “Sempre Avanti” – Always Forward – on one side and “Climb to Glory” on the other.
When the mask was completed, McKenna and Cipra traveled to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to meet Parker and have both artists sign the finished product.
Parker greeted his guests wearing a blue sport coat with his 86th Infantry Regiment insignia on it.
“He said he wore it for us,” McKenna said. “Mr. Parker is 98 years old and just as sharp as can be.”
McKenna said that Parker was interested in learning about the sled hockey team, and he brought a sled and the modified sticks that the players use. They swapped stories over a two-hour lunch and then continued for another two hours afterward. Cipra and Parker talked a little tradecraft – one artist to another – and the WWII veteran jokingly critiqued the goalie mask.
“He loved the goalie mask and told Frank he did a good job – but next time he could do greater,” McKenna said.
Before they left, Parker autographed two of his WWII ski trooper posters for McKenna and Cipra. McKenna presented him with some 10th Mountain Division mementos, to include a hat, coffee mug and Pando Commando patch. He also gave Parker a team jersey with the number 86 on the back and a “C” on the front, both signifying the veteran’s former unit and his being named honorary team captain.
“He is truly one of my heroes,” McKenna said. “Frank and I both said afterward that it was the best day ever – meeting a World War II hero and a true gentleman. His legacy will live on through our goalie mask.”