By Malisa Komalarajun, Disabled Hockey Festival Volunteer Chairwoman
The 14th annual Disabled Hockey Festival will be hosted in Chicago in April of 2018. Disabled athletes from all over the United States and Canada will be competing at all ages and skill levels in the following Disabled Hockey disciplines: Sled Hockey, Special Hockey, Blind Hockey, Warrior Hockey, Standing/Amputee Hockey and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Hockey.
The event will be held at the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, Illinois, over two weekends. All Disabled Hockey disciplines (except Sled) will be held Thursday, April 5 through Sunday, April 8, 2018. The Sled Hockey competition will be held the following week beginning on Thursday, April 12 and running through Sunday, April 15, 2018.
Over the next several months we will introduce each disabled discipline and some of our local hockey players who compete in each disabled category.
In Part I we introduced you to Blind Hockey. This month’s spotlight will focus on those hockey players that have physical and developmental disabilities. USA Hockey identifies this discipline as “Special Hockey”. Special Hockey serves a wide range of disabilities such as Downs Syndrome, Autism and other developmental disabilities.
February is known as “Hockey Is For Everyone” month in rinks around the world. As this NHL initiative strives to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities through the game of ice hockey, this is a perfect time to feature the discipline of Special Hockey.
The Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey (CBSH) organization provides athletes with physical and developmental disabilities the opportunity to play hockey. We endeavor to foster this spirit of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms, and in the stands. Our athletes develop a sense of sportsmanship, team spirit, increased confidence, pride, and team unity while having a great time in the process!
The Chicago-area special hockey program has experienced tremendous growth, and now plays out of three rinks – Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park, and our newest home, the MB Ice Arena, home of the Chicago Blackhawks brand new practice facility and community ice rink.
In Part II of our series, we are shining the spotlight on a few of our players in the Special Hockey discipline.
Adam, a senior at New Trier High School, has been playing hockey since he was 5 years old. In addition to hockey, Adam participates in Gator Special Olympics basketball and enjoys playing golf.
Sports are not Adam’s only passion. He is a talented musician as well (he started playing percussion instruments in the 5th grade). He played in his high school concert band through his sophomore year, and later joined the special needs choir group (called the High Five Choir), where he is a dedicated percussion accompanist.
Adam is a sports fanatic. He follows both college and professional sports and is especially passionate about the University of Michigan and Syracuse (where his sister attends).
Adam is a walking sports encyclopedia. He quotes scores, statistics, and standings, both current or historic. His favorite sports are ice hockey (#1 by far) and football, especially college.
This is Adam’s 5th year playing in the Special Hockey program. Adam likes playing the position of wing and prefers left wing since he’s a left-handed shot. He’s especially proud that in the last year he has learned how to lift the puck. In addition to scoring goals, he loves to make a good assist. He has a great eye for the open player and is always happy to make the pass to the open shooter. Adam’s talent and ability to be a team player earned him the position of alternative captain.
Jared’s immediate family had absolutely zero experience playing hockey prior to joining CBSH. When Jared was a child, they would rollerblade at the local skating rink but that was the extent of any skills. However, Jared caught on quick and hockey grew to be a favorite sport (thanks to some timely donations of equipment from friends).
Playing with the CBSH organization has opened the doors to give Jared more independence and self-reliance. Jared’s parents say they’re naturally very protective parents – the initial step of dropping Jared off at the players dock of the United Center, (for his first skate at a Chicago Blackhawks event as a young grammar school student and not staying by his side the whole time) was a huge milestone for everyone involved.
Jared’s family sees CBSH as not only therapeutic and fun for Jared, but for all people involved. Players and families can start as children and play into adulthood, and “it is difficult to remain an introvert!”
Seeing the players “suit up” in the uniform really brings everyone together to form a team – a team Jared loves to play with on the ice.
Zach Millard (on the left in photo) is 16 years old, and in his 4th season of hockey! He is a freshman at Lake Central High School in Indiana. The Millard family drives from Indiana to give Zach the opportunity to play on a hockey team he loves.
Zach’s favorite sport is downhill skiing, with hockey as a close second. He loves all types of music, but his favorite is Rock and Roll. He particularly loves classic rock and Hair Metal Bands – Aerosmith is his favorite band. He has even started drum lessons to continue his love of music. During the summer, Zach participates in Special Olympics golf. This year he received a silver medal in both his events, 3-hole individual and 9-hole unified play with his grandfather. Zach also keeps busy with summer baseball and does therapeutic horseback riding.
Zach has been a tremendous teammate both on and off the ice, and the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team is proud to also announce that Zach will be serving as this year’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” ambassador.
For more information on the discipline of special hockey or the CBSH Team, please feel free to contact Melanie Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-858-9012.
NOTES: The Festival Planning Committee is asking for your help in identifying and securing sponsorship opportunities to support the financial needs for this USA Hockey National Event for hockey players with disabilities. The Sponsorship Committee is looking for your help. This request is open to corporate sponsors, individual sponsors and/or our local hockey clubs throughout Illinois.
If you would like to become a sponsor or make a personal donation, please contact Michael Svac at email@example.com. All proceeds will go to the 14th Annual Disabled Hockey Festival and will directly benefit ALL Hockey Players with a disability in Illinois.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES: The planning committee is looking for volunteers to assist in planning and running the event. If interested in volunteering please contact Malisa Komalarajun, Disabled Hockey Festival Volunteer Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.