The Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday were mourning the death of U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Michael A. Cathcart.
Cathcart, who skated with the Canes during a special practice at Fort Bragg last year, died Friday as a result of injuries sustained during combat operations in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.
“We are deeply saddened to hear that we’ve lost Sgt. Cathcart,” general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. “The day that Mike practiced with our team at Cleland Ice Rink at Fort Bragg was a very special day for our players.
"People throw around the word ‘hero’ too easily sometimes, but Mike Cathcart was a true hero. He proudly served our country and died protecting our safety and freedom. We are grateful for that day we were able to spend with him and the impact he left on our team. On behalf of the Hurricanes organization, I send heartfelt condolences to his family and his unit.”
Cathcart, 31, was assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg and was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was his fifth deployment with the battalion, known as Bushmen, to Afghanistan.
Cathcart, from Bay City, Mich., enlisted in the Army in June 2001 and served for five years in the 101st Airborne Division, including two combat tours in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He volunteered for Special Forces in 2007 and joined the Bushmen in in September 2009 after completing his training.
Cathcart’s awards and decorations include four Bronze Star medals, the Purple Heart medal and four Army Commendation medals.
“It was an honor to share the ice with Mike that day," Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said in a statement. "Mike had already been seriously injured in the line of duty, but he was determined to return to active duty. My teammates and I will never forget his sacrifice.”