UHL, NHLPA announce All-Star Hero campaign winners

The UHL and NHLPA have announced the winners of the All-Star Hero campaign, which recognizes military personnel and their families for their services through the players’ NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund.

UNITED HEROES LEAGUE, NHLPA ANNOUNCE WINNERS OF ALL-STAR HERO CAMPAIGN

Sergeant Richard Silva, Lieutenant Colonel Darrin. J. Janisch, Sergeant Michael Brewer, and Master Corporal Stephen Giza were selected to receive air travel and tickets to attend the 2019 Honda NHL® All-Star Weekend with a guest.


TORONTO/HASTINGS, Minn. (Jan. 23, 2019)  The United Heroes League (UHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) have announced the four winners of the All-Star Hero campaign, which recognizes military personnel and their families for their services through the players’ NHLPA Goals & Dreams fund: Sergeant Richard Silva, Lieutenant Colonel Darrin J. Janisch, Sergeant Michael Brewer and Master Corporal Stephen Giza.

The four service members, of an estimated 200 nominations, were selected by the UHL after the public was asked to nominate their military hero:


Sergeant Richard Silva

Sgt. Silva, of Chula Vista, California, served in the United States Marine Corps for 9 years. Deployed in 2004 to Fallujah, Iraq, Sgt. Silva was attached to a Marine Recon unit in which he would serve alongside PFC Geoffrey Perez. The unit was hit by enemy fire and Sgt. Silva suffered several serious and lasting injuries as the only surviving member of his squad. Sgt. Silva remained at the side of his comrades, radioing for help while offering encouragement and support until being medically evacuated. He was honourably discharged stateside and awarded the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor for his bravery, and today remains an active advocate for wounded veterans across the U.S. No longer able to play hockey due to his injuries, the father of four enjoys being able to watch and encourage his son, RJ (given the middle name, Perez, in honour of his fallen comrade), continue the family tradition of playing hockey. Sgt. Silva was nominated by his daughter, Maura, and learned of the campaign and his selection in a surprise phone call from player ambassador, Brent Burns.


Lieutenant Colonel Darrin J. Janisch

Lt. Col. Janisch, of Savage, Minnesota, began his career with the United States Army as a Paratrooper in 1989 and has been deployed five times over his 31 years of service including Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. He survived three explosions and several close-range ambushes during a 22-month deployment in Iraq as an Infantry Company Commander and spent nearly a year retraining his brain and regaining balance after sustaining a Traumatic Brain Injury. On hand when the last combat vehicle crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait on Dec. 17, 2011, Lt. Col. Janisch was redeployed in 2012 and continues to serve as a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard. A passionate fan and player himself, Lt. Col. Janisch runs an annual hockey tournament that reconnects fellow service members through a shared love of the game, crediting the sport as a piece of consistency through multiple transitions from combat to civilian life. He was nominated by his wife, Ann, and learned of the campaign and his selection in a surprise video on Christmas from player ambassador, Matt Hendricks.


Sergeant Michael Brewer

Sgt. Michael Brewer of Lake Placid, New York, served in the United States Army for seven years, enlisting at 29 after witnessing the death of friends in Iraq as a civilian contractor. Sgt. Brewer was ambushed by multiple RPG explosions in Afghanistan while driving a convoy. Undeterred by severely impaired vision from smoke and blood, he successfully drove his convoy to safety and has since endured 14 facial and hand surgeries, a Traumatic Brain Injury, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He awaits further surgery. Sgt. Michael Brewer was honourably discharged, receiving a Purple Heart in addition to an Army Commendation with Valor. After relocation from Georgia for better access to the sport, Sgt. Brewer takes joy in watching his 10-year-old son, Alex, pursue his own hockey dreams inspired by the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. As Alex fights an ongoing battle with Lyme Disease, he and his father hope to enjoy a weekend free of doctor appointments at the 2019 Honda NHL® All-Star Weekend. Sgt. Michael Brewer was nominated by his wife, Jill, and learned of the campaign and his selection in a surprise phone call from player ambassador, Vinni Lettieri.


Master Corporal Stephen Giza

MCpl. Stephen Giza, of London, Ontario, has served in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Vehicle Technician for 15 years. Among completing several Canadian and International Operations, he has been deployed to Canada’s most northern inhabited base, CFS Alert and also to Eureka, Iqaluit. During his tour of Afghanistan in 2007, MCpl. Giza was struck by two IEDs, the second of which saw him medically evacuated with serious lower extremity injuries. For his actions during wartime under enemy contact, MCpl. Stephen Giza received the prestigious Sacrifice medal. He was also the recipient of the Army Commanders Commendation and a wound stripe for his injuries. In 2015 MCpl. Giza was redeployed to Ali Al Salem Kuwait, where he completed a six-month tour. He continues to inspire young soldiers daily as a dedicated leader instilling the same selflessness and ethics into his own subordinates. MCpl. Stephen Giza was nominated by his wife, Lisa, and learned of the campaign and his selection in a surprise phone call from player ambassador Jake Gardiner.


The 2019 All-Star Hero campaign

Each of the four winners and their guest will receive air travel to San Jose for the chance to meet and interact with players in the NHLPA All-Star Lounge at the 2019 Honda NHL® All-Star Weekend. Tickets to NHL All-Star Skills and the NHL All-Star Game will also be provided, along with hotel accommodations, ground transportation and other prizing. 

Track #YourAllStarHero on social media or follow @NHLPA  on Twitter or Instagram for the behind-the-scenes experience of these heroes, following the 2019 Honda NHL® All-Star Weekend.