(Newburgh, NY) The Blind Community is often associated with white canes, guide dogs, and dark glasses, but when 25 blind and visually impaired hockey players from across New York, Vermont, and Montreal, Canada take to the ice this weekend, they’ll be trading them in for skates, hockey sticks, and large adapted sound pucks that make noise. That’s because the newly formed Courage USA Ice Hockey for the Blind is bent on bringing the fast growing parasport of Blind Ice Hockey to the US, with the first step being this weekend’s Courage USA Blind Ice Hockey Summit, taking place October 18 & 19 at the Ice Time Sports Complex in Newburgh, NY.
The sport of Blind Ice Hockey has been enjoyed in Canada for over 40 years, but has yet to make it to the United States. Despite the fact there are dozens of stories of legally Blind Hockey players participating in traditional hockey across America, no one has brought the adapted game to the USA — until now.
“I was playing in a men’s league in Indianapolis and was frustrated trying to follow the regular puck with my limited vision,” said Courage USA co-founder and President, Kevin Shanley?. I went online to see if anyone had tried to invent a hockey puck for the blind and found out not only that it existed, but there was an entire hockey league in Canada just for the blind and visually impaired. Two weeks later I was on a plane competing at the 2013 Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament. What an amazing experience.”
Upon returning home, Shanley moved to New York near another legally Blind Hockey player, Christine Osika, who had previously interned for Courage Canada in 2013, and together founded America’s first Blind Ice hockey team — the New York Nightshades. They were the only two Americans who competed at the 2014 Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament, and had tremendous success as both won gold while playing for Team West, with Osika racking up 8 points in 4 games and being awarded Rookie-of-the-Year.
“I absolutely loved my first experience playing Blind Hockey,” said Osika. “I have played hockey my entire life, and was able to intern with Courage Canada three years ago while I was in school. I know all the amazing things they do for kids and adults who are blind or visually impaired, and that’s what we’re trying to bring to America with the sister organization, Courage USA Ice Hockey for the Blind.”
This weekend’s Courage USA Ice Hockey for the Blind Summit is the official launch of this exciting new parasport in the states. The event features the first 10 American Blind Hockey players from the Hudson Valley, Staten Island, Utica, and Vermont. Additionally, Canada’s oldest program — Les Hiboux (translates to “The Owls”) from Montreal, Quebec will be sending 13 players down to participate in skill development drills, information sessions, and two friendly games.
Also in attendance will be Courage Canada founder Mark DeMontis and Executive Director Matt Morrow leading the summit. Courage Canada began as a kitchen-table charity in 2008 and has since grown to a national respected hockey charity that provides programs to 500 children and adults annually who are blind or partially sighted.
“When we started we had a dream to teach kids who were blind to skate and to help organize the various Blind Ice Hockey teams across Canada,” said DeMontis. “6 years later, we have national championships where we’re expecting close to 100 players from across the country, in addition to the sport expanding into the USA. We have long term goals of World Championships and even the Paralympics, so having Courage USA is a fantastic next step. I’m confident Kevin and Christine are the right people to bring Blind Ice Hockey to the USA, and we’re just really excited to work together.”
The Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament is the only Blind Ice Hockey tournament in the world and next takes place February 13 — 15, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario. Both Courage USA co-founders will once again be competing, and they hope this summit will spur interest and help recruit a few more players to represent the red, white and blue.
For more information, contact Courage USA Co-Founder and Vice President Christine Osika by email at courageUSAhockey@gmail.com or by phone at 845-234-1650, or Courage
Canada Executive Director Matt Morrow at email@example.com or 604-812-6786.