Melissa Walsh

A Goal-Scoring Visionary

Pointe Media | December 2011 | Grosse Pointe Magazine - "A Goal-Scoring Visionary"

A Goal-Scoring Visionary By Melissa Walsh

Great hockey players apply a skill known as “split vision” -- critical for handling the puck heads up while reading and reacting to what’s happening on the ice.

The Grosse Pointe Chill women’s hockey team’s high-scoring center, Kristine Anderson, has an uncanny knack for applying split vision. This is especially remarkable because Anderson is legally blind.

Diagnosed in 1997 with Stargardt’s Disease, a form of macular degeneration, Anderson was declared legally blind in 2005. Though she struggles to see images directly in front of her, Anderson’s peripheral vision remains in tact. This is known as “eccentric vision.” Anderson works with vision therapists who teach her how to hone her eccentric vision.

“I rely on [eccentric] vision like nothing else. It’s all that I use to see. It’s how I function in life,” she says.

Less than two years ago, at the age of 41, Anderson met Biz Williamson at a hockey skills drop-in skate at Civic Arena. Williamson, a defenseman with the newly formed Chill, invited Anderson to join the hockey club.

“She was incredible on the ice and she had so much enthusiasm,” Williamson recalls. “It was skate at first sight.”

“Hockey has saved my life.” says Anderson. “It’s the one thing that I can do successfully. And it’s the one thing I can do where no one really knows that I’m struggling.”

People with macular degeneration crave light. The brightness of the white ice and contrast of the black puck make hockey an ideal competitive environment for Anderson. And though she cannot identify individuals by sight, she can recognize a team mate from an opponent on the ice because of the contrast of dark versus light jerseys.

“Kristine seriously sees the puck better than anyone on the team,” says left winger Jane Ann Ruffing. “I rarely see her miss it or not know where it is. Whatever vision quality she may be lacking, Kristine has made up for it in every other aspect of the game.”

Anderson says that since becoming a hockey player, her dreams have changed. She dreams about scoring goals and hopes to score a hat trick. Her parents, husband Johnny, son Grant, and daughter Maren are her biggest fans.

“At the age of 43, every time I go out, it becomes like my Olympics,” Anderson explains.

“[Hockey] is a very empowering sport. It’s a therapeutic sport. It’s a sport where you think about nothing else except the task at hand. And to me, I know it’s about more than just scoring goals, but I love to score goals.

The Grosse Pointe Women's Hockey Club, a.k.a The GP Chill, is an instructional and lower-level recreational competitive hockey club for women of all ages. Find The Chill on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/gpchill.