Hockey is a game for all. That was the message sent Sunday morning as Philadelphia Blind Hockey celebrated its 2022-23 by welcoming some special guests to the Laura Sims Skate House in West Philadelphia.
Players from four area high schools, Pennridge, Malvern Prep, Penncrest, and Haverford High shared the ice with some of the young participants in Philadelphia Blind Hockey, a program that was launched in 2021 to provide access to hockey for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired
Players from the four schools made biweekly Sunday-morning visits during the season to work with the program’ participants and coaches. Sunday’s effort was essentially a celebration of the season, one that was highlighted by the Flyers Cup Committee’s presentation of a $2,500 check to Philadelphia Blind Hockey.
Kelsey McGuire is the program’s founder and executive director
“The high school teams have been great,” she said. “Our coaches are very eager to learn because none of them really have a background in visual impairment, so having them learn has been a process, and` having the school teams come out has really helped them and encouraged them to be better coaches as well.”
Blind hockey is a modified form of the game for the visually impaired. It is played using standard hockey rules with some exceptions. The puck is made of steel and is larger than a traditional rubber puck; 5 ¼ inches in diameter and 1 7/8 inches thick. It weights 220 grams or 7.76 oz. (A traditional puck is made of vulcanized rubber and is three inches in diameter and one inch thick and weights between 5 ½ and 6 oz.)
The puck contains eight ball bearings which ensure the puck moves more slowly on the ice than its traditional counterpart, and makes audible sounds to enable players to track the puck’s location.
The nets are 3 feet high rather than the traditional 4 feet.
Penncrest junior forward Ryan Anderson enjoyed being part of Sunday’s event and working with the participants in the program
“It’s cool because everyone loves the game,” he said. “We both love the game, so it’s kind of easy to connect.”
Anderson said his involvement in the program gave him a new perspective.
“It’s kind of eye-opening,” he said, “that they have disabilities but they still want to play. And they do play.”
Pennridge players L-R Kevin Pico, Colin Dachowski, Shane Dachowski on the ice at the Philadelphia Blnd Hockey celebration (R. Woelfel)
Penncrest coach Steve Mescanto brought his team to the Laura Sims Skate House two Sunday ago.
“They really, really enjoy it,” he said. “A lot of the parents, when we did it (on March 5) said the kids were kind of mumbling and grumbling about getting up early on a Sunday morning. And then, after the fact said that was one of the coolest things they’ve ever done.
“They really enjoyed it and got a lot of great feedback from the kids and the parents they just really had a blast.”
Mescanto said participating in the program offered his players a learning experience.
“I think when they get to this point, it’s obvious that they love the game,” he said, “and being able to kind of give back and share that with somebody else.
“It’s kind of cool for them and they really enjoy it. but I think it’s being able to see other people who maybe don’t have the ease of playing that they do.”
Pennridge coach Jeff looked at the Philadelphia Blind Hockey program as a learning opportunity for his players well.
“You try and tech them life lessons,” he said. The best way you can do that is they come out here and do things like this.
I remember the last time we did this (the program participants) were so excited they had (high school) players out here skating with them and the players enjoyed it to. It is something different for them and it’ a way for them to give back.”
Senior defenseman Steven Getsie one of Malvern Prep’s captains this season, was on the ice for Sunday’s event.
“It’s really fun to be around a bunch of kids in general,” he said, “a bunch of kids that are kind of less fortunate in that they have visual impairments. I think it’s really great to see them try to do things and step outside their comfort zone
“I think it’s really humbling to see them try something new, and it’s kind of a really fun time to see kids be really happy for achieving something.”
Click here for more information about Philadelphia Blind Hockey