Blind Hockey is the same exhilarating, fast-paced game that gets spectators out of their seats with only one main difference – all of the players are legally blind! The sport features an adapted puck that makes noise, and is both bigger and slower than a traditional puck. Players’ levels of vision range from legally blind – approximately 10% vision or less – to totally blind, with the lowest vision athletes playing defense or goal.
“We are very proud that Illinois was first to host a Blind Try Hockey For Free Event (on November 14, 2015),” said Amy LaPoe, Central District’s Disabled Hockey Representative. “Eighteen players for our first ever Blind Hockey event in Chicago is a tremendous success.”
JJ O’Connor, USA Hockey’s Disabled Section Chairperson agrees, “It’s wonderful to see the success in Chicago. USA Hockey is working with people around the country to develop our Blind Hockey discipline. We have many disabled disciplines within USA Hockey. Our motto is – no matter what your disability is, if you want to play hockey, we will find a way to make it happen.”
Blind Hockey is an excellent spectator sport as it is easily recognizable to the average hockey fan, with minimal rule adaptations to help with gameplay and player safety:
- Face-offs begin with the puck on the ice and the players may only touch it on the referee’s whistle – this makes it a competition of reaction time and does not favor the player with the most vision.
- Goals may only be scored in the bottom 3 feet of the net – the adapted Blind Hockey puck does not currently make noise in the air and it is unfair to the goalie to score in the top of the net.
- 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.
- The game is played with standard IIHF safety protocols including no-touch icing, and crease violations to ensure utmost player safety.
- All players must wear full protective gear including facemask.
“We are excited to build on the success of our Try Blind Hockey event in November,” said LaPoe. “In fact, we are starting a team on Saturday, January 23 at Center Ice Arena in Glen Ellyn. We already have 13 participants ranging in age from 5 to 43 years old.”
If you, or someone you know is blind or visually impaired, and would like to try the fun and inclusive sport of Blind Hockey, please contact Amy LaPoe at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Blind Hockey visit http://www.courageusa.org.