By Michael Svac, USA Hockey Central District Disabled Hockey Representative
The USA National Blind Hockey Team traveled to Ottawa, Canada, the weekend of November 8th as part of the Canadian Blind Hockey Eastern Regional Tournament. Games were played at the TD Place Arena which is the home to the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL.
Anthony Chesrow and Luke Miller, both from the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey Team, represented Team USA and brought home a Silver Medal from the event. Chesrow, a resident of Carol Stream, scored three goals for Team USA. We are extremely proud of our two athletes that not only represented our hometown of Chicago, but represented our country…the USA!
The current USA Blind Hockey Team was selected in August following a final selection camp at Utica College in Upstate New York. The camp is sponsored and supported by the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This year’s team has 16 players and represents 11 different States. The next scheduled competition for team USA is in February of 2020 in Minnesota and then off to Vegas for the World Cup in May of 2020.
What is Blind Hockey?
By USA Hockey – Blind Hockey is the same exhilarating, fast-paced sport as Ice Hockey with only one main difference – all of the players are legally blind. Players must be classified as eligible in one of the three International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) classifications.
Typically: totally blind athletes play goal (or defense); lower sighted athletes play defense; and higher sighted athletes play forward.
The most significant modification is that 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. 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.
- Custom 3 foot high nets are used rather than the traditional 4 foot nets to keep the puck low and near the ice so it can make noise and be tracked aurally.
- Teams must complete one pass in the attacking zone prior to being able to score. This provides both the low vision defense and the goalie an extra opportunity to track the puck.
- An on ice official uses a different whistle to indicate that a pass has been completed and the attacking team is eligible to score.
- Tag-up off-sides is used with the assistance of verbal communication from on ice officials. 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 face mask.
Blind Hockey has been played in Canada since the early 1970’s. The sport was first played in the U.S. on October 18, 2014 with the first ever Blind Hockey Summit in Newburgh, NY. At this event local players and visiting Canadian players formed two teams and played two structured games, following a try-it session which introduced the sport to many new players. At the 2015 USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival, in Buffalo, NY, blind Hockey was introduced to the rest of the Disabled Hockey Community. Again, U.S. and Canadian players came together to form two teams and played a single exhibition game.
Word has spread quickly about this new discipline of hockey, and players and programs have sprung up all over the country. The Blind Hockey Summit is now an annual USA Hockey sanctioned event which brings players and administrators together from across the country to play and grow the sport.
As one of the fastest growing segments of Disabled Hockey, blind hockey is a great opportunity for those individuals with vision impairment to be a part of the best sport in the world, ice hockey!