Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hockey for all – Yahoo Sports article about a New Jersey initiative …

Published Jan 26, 2010 in a Yahoo Sports blog. It covers both Disabled and Special hockey (emphases mine) and references the EveryBODY skates organization …

Hitting 54 rinks in 54 hours, for one great hockey cause - Puck Daddy - NHL Blog - Yahoo! Sports

Josh Pauls, 17, is a bi-lateral amputee from South Plainfield, NJ, whose legs were surgically removed at 10 months old. He's also a heck of a hockey player.

Pauls is a sled hockey player for the Woodbridge Spinal Rangers, and has been a member of the U.S. Junior National Sled Hockey Team (2007-2009) before earning a promotion to the U.S. Men's Paralympic Team that will compete in the Paralympics in Vancouver next month. He's also a member of EveryBODY Skates New Jersey (ESNJ) -- an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for more athletes like Josh to break through barriers and experience the incomparable thrill of competitive hockey.

"People just think of sled hockey, and there are 300 other disciplines," said Jon Schwartz, who along with brother Andrew coaches and leads the ESNJ campaign. "Because hockey has so much stimulus, it helps. Especially with autistic kids."

On Friday, Jan. 29, as part of Hockey Weekend in America, EveryBODY Skates New Jersey will begin an ambitious journey through the Garden State: Visiting all 54 New Jersey ice rinks in 54 hours. The goal is to help convince those rink owners and operators that allocating just one hour of ice time per week to disabled hockey can make an enormous difference for this fledgling program and thousands of potential players across the state.

"We're going about 1,370 miles to prove a point," said Schwartz. "That hockey is the ultimate occupational therapy for people with disabilities."

The notion of "disabled hockey" is usually limited to sled hockey (or sledge hockey), which is played around the globe. (And even results in a fight or two sometimes, as we learned last year.)

But Schwartz said that notion ignores hockey for the deaf, for example, and hockey for players with developmental disabilities.

An obvious question: What does Autistic hockey look like?

"It's a little scary for parents to put a weapon in the hands of a kid who has Autism and put them out on a slippery surface," said Schwartz. "But I think it looks beautiful. There's no icing or off-sides. We just go. The scoreboard is like a nice decoration."

He said hockey is used to stimulate as well as inspire. Goals are arranged for young players to easily score. Eight-year-olds battle adults for face-offs. "Can you imagine at 16 years old getting your first [athletic] jersey?" Schwartz asked.

There are clear benefits to disabled hockey, and Schwartz said there academic studies underway to confirm them. The obstacle facing EveryBODY Skates New Jersey and other programs like it is the same obstacle facing so many other community hockey organizations throughout the U.S.: a little thing called "available ice time."

New Jersey's 54 rinks give preference to established travel teams and high-school hockey programs. They're businesses, so that's understandable; the challenge for ESNJ is convince some of them that, if given the opportunity, disables hockey programs won't simply be charitable ventures and will pay for themselves.

"Most rinks don't realize that disabled hockey programs can pay their own way. They just need a chance to access some ice time and gain some support from the community," said Schwartz. "We have a community in New Jersey that can mobilize its forces very well. If word spreads that Rink X is holding time for disabled hockey. If you build it, they will come."

This weekend, the word spreads over 54 hours. Among the group touring the state will be U.S. Paralympians Tim Jones and Josh Pauls; U.S. Amputee team member Joe Bowser and two U.S. Deaf Olympians, along with Schwartz and others. The trip begins at the NHL Store in Manhattan at 10 a.m. on Friday, with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and ESPN's EJ Hradek scheduled to attend. (Schwartz said 20-percent of store sales that morning will be donated to ESNJ.)

The final rink of the trip will be the Prudential Center in Newark on Jan. 31, where the ESNJ athletes will be honored before the New Jersey Devils take on the Los Angeles Kings.

ESNJ has a petition on its Web site to drum up support for the cause; there's also a complete schedule of their stops during the 54-rink trek (pdf).  "Some stops might be a quick in and out," said Schwartz.

The transformative power of competitive sports is always a compelling subject. So is the battle of available sheets of ice for a growing program, which is something I experienced while covering the birth of a high-school hockey league in Northern Virginia, driving home from covering games until 12:30 a.m. on a Friday night.

Hockey is for everyone, or at least it should be; and whether it's EveryBODY Skates New Jersey or a program in your community, it's important to recognize the efforts of those who are trying to bring the Game to those it can inspire and encourage. Here's to safe and effective 54 hours in Jersey.

Maryland tournament update: Contact Susie before Jan 31.

Update on Maryland Special Hockey tournament from Susie Miller:
MN Special Hockey is planning to send a team to Maryland. If we can get 40 people who would like to charter a coach bus we could provide transportation for less than $175 per person. The bus would leave Wednesday evening, April 7 and leave immediately following the activities in Maryland on Sunday, April 11.
Both ways the bus would travel through the night for ease of transportation. We would have 2 bus drivers to make sure it is a safe trip. The chartered bus would also provide our transportation around Maryland. We have rooms booked at SHERATON HOTEL COLUMBIA Rate is $119.00/Night + tax.

MN Special Hockey will give players $100 and MN Hockey – Disabled Hockey section will give $150 per skater. So $250 will be given towards the trip.
Please let me know by Sunday, January 31 ( if your skater is planning to go to the tournament (please let me know even if you have expressed an interest in the past), and if you would ride the chartered bus if we were able to have enough people interested.
Any specific questions please email me or call me at 612-325-3392.

Apparel forms for 2010 - including wildcats

You can download and print the 2010 Apparel order form. Players should send in the form to Jane Cashin no later than February 8th.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Exhibition skate in Red Wing - Feb 20th

Toni Boelter writes:
We will be holding an exhibition skate at Treasure Island in Red Wing on Feb 20th.
Special hockey will skate first. I need to know what players will be there and what coaches can attend. After that the adult sled team will take on the adult sled team from Chicago.
Treasure Island is holding a block of rooms for us if you would like to stay and celebrate after the games. Just follow the directions on the flyer. Please let me know if you have any questions!! This will be a great way to say thank you to Prairie Island for supporting Disabled Hockey in Minnesota.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to put the flyer online due to a Google bug. Toni and coaches should have the information.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photos from open skate - Fourth season

Jane has provided some photos from the open skate event.

They're in an online album: Minnesota Special Hockey 2009-2010.

The album password is the same as all our previous albums: mnhockey.
My Google Reader Shared items (feed)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

WCCO story on Eagles and Augsburg

From our active Facebook page comes a link to a story from WCCO ...
Giving Everyone The Opportunity To Play Hockey -
Minnesota is known as the "State of Hockey" so a special organization is proving hockey is for everyone in the state.

Minnesota Special Hockey launched four years ago. Now there are four teams in the metro area.

If you ever need a pick-me up, check out the Woodbury Eagles. You can't help but feel good watching these athletes play their hearts out.

"I love playing it," exclaimed 11-year-old player Grant Jobe.

Each player is unique. Some skate and some are pushed by others. They range in age from five to over 40 year old. They all have developmental disabilities and they all love hockey.

"To me, it doesn't matter. Hockey is hockey. If you want to go out there and work the puck around, go for the net, that's what it's about," said Jill Pohtilla, Augsburg Women's Hockey Coach.

For the first time, the Augsburg College Women's Hockey Team hosted the Eagles. The college athletes offered pointers and played side-by-side with the special team members.

"It reminds you of how much fun it is and why we started playing and how awesome it is that anyone can play," said Augsburg player Toni Menth.

Being included has meant the world to Grant and his family.

"He would be sitting on the bench pretty much most of the time if he was playing with a regular hockey team. This way he gets to play a lot," said Grant's mother Jennifer Jobe.

The Eagles are improving their skills, but this league is about much more than the game. Coach Joe Kelly described a moment he'll never forget. When one of his athletes, nicknamed "Bomber", made a goal for the first time.

"When Bomber got back to the box, he started crying and that meant more to me than anything I've ever seen here. That's what this brings to these athletes. It's a chance for them to achieve some stuff that they've never achieved before," Kelly said.