Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey Team Road Trips East to the USA Hockey Special Hockey Classic

By Michael Svac, USA Hockey Central District Disabled Hockey Representative

The Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey (CBSH) team packed up their cars and made a long road trip east to Wayne, New Jersey to compete in the USA Hockey Special Hockey Classic, hosted by the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association. Eighteen players and many coaches and volunteers participated in the 12-team event where games were played at the Ice Vault Arena November 8-10, 2019.

The special hockey discipline is intended to give people with a wide range of cognitive and developmental disabilities the chance to play the sport of ice hockey in an environment that is adapted to the level of ability. Last year’s inaugural event saw 10 teams take the ice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Steve Drews, Head Coach for the CBSH team at Center Ice of DuPage, was in attendance and noted, “The overall competition was evenly matched. Our Chicago players were outstanding in all games played resulting in another banner brought home to Chicago.”

The Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team that competed in Wayne had representation from all five of their home rinks: Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park, Carlson Ice Rink in Rockford, Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Fifth Third Ice Arena in Chicago and Rink Side in Gurnee.

“It wasn’t just about the hockey,” commented Melanie Freeman, manager for the CBSH team, “It was about team bonding, time spent together at the pool practicing our cannon balls and most importantly, just hanging out with our hockey families and sharing our victories.”

The event was a huge success, and CBSH thanks Alex DePalma, his entire team and the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association for pulling together such an outstanding event.


Special hockey programs have been established over 30 cities in the United States. The goal of special hockey is to give people with physical and developmental disabilities the chance to play the sport of ice hockey in an environment which is adapted to the level of ability. The athletes play upright and in most cases offsides, icing, penalties etc. are not part of gameplay. Special Hockey emphasizes players having fun through teamwork, social interaction, and improving the quality of life through on and off ice activities.

Special hockey serves a wide range of disabilities and there is an opportunity for everyone to enjoy the sport. Many teams also provide a mentor program in which coaches and volunteers assist the players with important skills for everyday life. There is competition available when interested as well as various camps throughout the year.


CBSH is dedicated to providing children and adults with developmental disabilities the opportunity to play hockey. CBSH team members range in age from 5 to 55, and include both male and female athletes. The team is comprised of players that have Autism, Down syndrome or other intellectual disabilities. CBSH strives to promote and emphasize the development of sportsmanship, team spirit, increased confidence, pride, and team unity while having a great time in the process! For more information about CBSH, please feel free to contact Melanie Freeman at or 847-858-9012.

Categories: Chicago Blackhawks, Disabled Hockey, featured, Players in the News, Special Hockey

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