BVA Initiative Offers Blind Hockey to Veterans with Vision Loss
Alexandria, VA (November 11, 2016)—Hockey for the blind and visually impaired is the focus of a new initiative unveiled by the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) to provide enjoyment and recreational rehabilitation opportunities to a population who may have never before engaged in the sport.
The initiative currently seeks interested athletes in the Washington, DC area to participate in weekly “Try It” sessions at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex facility within the Ballston Commons Mall, which is a one-block indoor or outdoor walk from the Ballston Metrorail Station. The Sunday morning sessions begin at 8:40 a.m.
A second venue, the Tucker Road Ice Rink in Fort Washington, Maryland (1770 Tucker Road), hosts the sessions on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. A major showcase event will be held on February 4, 2017, also at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
The “Try It” sessions mean more than one-time attendance. The program takes players who have never skated before. It introduces them to the basics of skating, equips them with gear, and safely trains them to go as far as they wish to go in hockey, which is considered the only adaptive winter team sport.
“We are excited about moving blind ice hockey forward to take a more prominent place among popular activities for those with vision loss, especially veterans,” said BVA Program Director Bruce Porter. “Although many are surprised to hear blind and ice hockey in the same sentence, blind hockey has been played in Canada for nearly 40 years.”
Although the rules for blind hockey are similar to the sighted game, an enlarged, slower moving puck with loud ball bearings is used. In tournament play all athletes must be at least legally blind with the lowest vision athletes playing defense or goalie. Athletes are grouped by sight level and can have only a set amount of sight among all of the players on the ice at the same time.
Adaptations for the blind and visually impaired within the sport include full protective gear, including face mask. The game is also played with International Ice Hockey Federation safety protocols, including no-touch icing and crease violations to ensure utmost player safety.
Blind hockey also requires goals to be scored in the bottom three feet of the net as it is unfair to the goalie to score in the top portion. The adapted puck does not make noise in the air. Teams must complete one pass prior to being able to score in the attacking half of the rink. This provides both the low-vision defense and the goalie an extra opportunity to track the puck.
Because hockey is considered the fastest, most aggressive game in the world, those who take up the sport usually develop increased mobility and balance almost immediately, Porter said.
“BVA is involved to help our blinded veterans and to help blind associations introduce the sport to their athletes with the hope that blind hockey will be added to sports programs for the blind and visually impaired,” he added. “My role is to organize the ‘Try It’ sessions and coordinate ice time, coaching, media, and equipment.”
Porter is confident that the interest generated in the initiative will eventually spread to blind and visually impaired veterans throughout the country.
“Most of our players thus far are very enthusiastic and blind hockey is great cross training for all sports,” he said. “This is a unique and amazing opportunity that could well lead some athletes to the
Winter Paralympics games in the future.”
For an introduction to the excitement of the blind ice hockey and the enthusiasm of those who play the sport, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsovpuJ7SMc. For more information and inquiries, drop by one of the “Try It” sessions or call Coach Bruce Porter at 202-436-6577. Athletes are being accepted weekly and transportation assistance is available.