The Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday mourned 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 in February, died as a result of injuries sustained during combat operations Friday 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.”
The Hurricanes held a moment of silence for Cathcart on Sunday before the game against the San Jose Sharks at PNC Arena.
Cathcart, 31, was assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group and was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was his fifth deployment with the battalion, known as the 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 September 2009.
Cathcart’s awards and decorations include four Bronze Star medals, the Purple Heart medal and four Army Commendation medals.
During the practice, Cathcart was able to skate on a line with Jeff Skinner and Riley Nash and scored a goal against Cam Ward.
“It puts things in perspective,” Skinner said Sunday. “That’s one of my better memories of my time here. We got to know them on a personal level in the time we spent there. It’s sad. We’re obviously thinking about him.”
Said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, “It was an honor to share the ice with Mike that day. ... My teammates and I will never forget his sacrifice.”