Melissa Walsh

6 Great Truths that Disabled Hockey Brings to Light

Powerplay Communications | February 6th, 2013 | Hockey Mom Sense blog: "6 Great Truths that Disabled Hockey Brings to Light"



By Melissa Walsh

February is “Hockey is for Everyone” (HIFE) month, celebrating what makes hockey a wonderful sport for so many -- the joy of knowing community in the hockey club and the empowerment of playing the hockey game. From Mini Mites getting fitted for their first pair of skates to middle-aged women shooting a puck for the first time, anyone who commits him- or herself to giving hockey a try learns quickly how exhilarating hockey feels. Overcoming the fear of getting started initiates a person into hockey-playing society, a special camaraderie that those who have never been on the players’ side of the glass can not fully understand. Only hockey players know the sound of blades scraping the ice, the echo of the puck careening off the boards, the wind in the face while rushing with the flow of the play, the adrenaline surge felt during that third-period second wind, and the fraternity/sorority experienced in the room and on the bench.

The hockey-playing experience is something special and should be available for anyone who wants it. This is one reason why I’m a fan of Disabled Hockey programs. Another reason is that Disabled Hockey offers observers entertainment in witnessing incredible skill presented on the ice and inspiration in triumphant player stories.

Not only do Disabled Hockey programs pursue the goal of everyone getting the opportunity to play, they exhibit so vividly and profoundly the heart of the hockey player and the spirit of the game. Below are six truths about hockey that Disabled Hockey reveals so well:

1- Hockey is for everyBODY.

There are four categories of Disabled Hockey: Standing/Amputee Hockey, Sled Hockey (called “Sledge Hockey” outside the United States), Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey, and Special Hockey.

For many who suffer a life-changing event resulting in loss of limbs or use of limbs, they may pursue playing hockey via Sled Hockey and Standing/Amputee Hockey. In fact, Sled Hockey was first developed in Stolckholm, Sweden, in the early 1960s by lovers of the game, who despite losing use of their legs, wanted to continue playing hockey. The rules are the same; just the equipment is different. In Standing/Amputee Hockey, players use prostheses for stickhandling or skating. In Sled Hockey, special sleds and sticks are designed for the sport. The “bench” area is usually on the ice, as most rink benches are not accessible by sled. A national Sled Hockey team competes in the Paralympics.

In Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey, the rules are the same. The difference is that the practice and game environments are customized to meet the needs of players diagnosed with hearing loss. For example, sign language interpreters may be present to assist. Some Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey players play for a local association or school team, in addition to a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey team. USA Hockey enters a team in the Deaflympics.

Special Hockey programs are designed for players with developmental disabilities. The rules are different in that there are no offsides and icing infractions or penalties called. There are no tryouts and usually no separate age groups. However, some players may participate in a local association team or school team, in addition to a Special Hockey team.

2- There is only one requirement to play hockey: to love the game.

Every hockey player must pursue his or her own desire to play. Therefore, the most fundamental requirement for playing hockey is simply to want to play hockey purely for the fun of the game, for teamwork, and for making friends. EveryBODY who loves the game should have the chance to play the game, and Disabled Hockey demonstrates that if you build a program to meet players’ needs, you will attract great lovers of this great sport.

3- There is only one goal of the hockey player: to give their best effort.

The American Special Hockey Association has a great tagline: “Where every player is a star.” What is a hockey star? A hockey player playing his or her best every game, every shift, every moment on the ice. This character strength, this work ethic, carries into life off the ice. Being a “hockey star” hones perseverance, mental and physical toughness, and sense of team in all aspects of life.

4- All hockey players have hockey skills.

With practice and continual pursuit of playing their best every game, all hockey players evolve hockey skills. If you’ve ever seen a Sled Hockey competition, you know what I mean. Sled Hockey players develop amazing skills in dribbling the puck under the sled, in maneuvering the sled to gain zone or rub out an opponent to win a battle, in saucing passes to teammates on the move, etc. It’s excellent hockey in entertainment value.

5- Playing hockey is empowering.

Overcoming the fear of getting started playing hockey and then progressing in evolving skills with practice and competition is one of the most empowering experiences anyone can have. Building relationships with teammates, and even opponents, is a mighty force for significant friendship. And competing with a triumphant will-to-win determination is a power that prevails in a player’s life.

6- Playing hockey is a joyful pursuit for anyBODY.

Playing hockey is fun. Memories of special games endure in stories told and photos framed. Support from teammates during life’s ups and downs is close; encouragement is sincere. A smile from a coach may cure a tinge of self-doubt; laughs in the room or on the bus or bench heal the soul. Winning the cup -- priceless.

Link to USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Webpage

Link to the American Special Hockey Website

Link about this year’s HIFE activities during Hockey Weekend Across America
“Hockey Day in Canada” is Feb. 9. “Hockey Day in America” is Feb. 15-17.