SAN DIEGO — Team, teammate, self: three pillars encompassing the Patriot Hockey League.

“It’s a brotherhood. It’s a tight-knit family. Once you start playing, you guys do anything for each other. The military is no different. Us doing hockey and military, it’s a perfect marriage,” said Naval Electronic Technician Petty Officer First Class Nick Ritt.

Founded in October 2011, the league is made up of five teams throughout San Diego and Riverside counties, all tied together through different military branches and their love of the game.

“With the Patriots, it’s been fantastic. I joined them immediately, they took me in with open arms. I jumped in, tried to help where I could. I ended up being a captain for our D14 team here,” Ritt said.

These band of brothers are also making a difference off the ice, raising more than $20,000 for various military nonprofits. They say that serving your country starts by serving your community. 

“If they need help with anything. I’m talking mental health, I’m talking finances, just some mentorship. We’ve got guys straight out of bootcamp that are playing. All the way up to in have a commanding officer on my team,” Ritt said.

Ritt says the jersey represents more than just a sense of pride, or even just being a player on the Patriots team. Putting on the jersey, for some of the players who take the ice, it gives them a sense of peace.

“We’ve got a couple of guys on our team that are veterans. If it weren’t for hockey and Patriots, they’d probably be in dark place. This gives them that outlet,” Ritt said.

The Patriot League also is always actively recruiting.

“We got spots. We have guys who have never skated on the ice, all the way up to guys who played juniors up in Canada. If you want to come play, come play,” Ritt said.