Susie and her kids.
Minnesota Special Hockey was founded by Susie Miller in the Spring of 2006. Richfield Ice Arena hosted the first six one-hour Sunday skate arounds for individuals with disabilities. When almost 50 participants from all over the Metro area attended, Susie realized that this had the potential to be a permanent ice hockey program with participants not only from the Metro area but possibly state-wide.
During the Summer of 2006, Susie contacted Jane Cashin, Rick Carlson and Chris Winkel. Her enthusiasm for having a Special Hockey program in Minnesota got them on the bandwagon.
Eventually the 4 of them found that more people needed to be involved. Leading the way were founding Board members Toni Gillen, Cheryl Caffrey, Jane Cashin, Cindy Coughlin, George Holden, Joe Kelly, Susie Miller, Rick Carlson and Chris Winkel and quickly Minnesota Special Hockey was formed as a corporation. Not long after, MNSH requested and received approval to be a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The inaugural season launched with the formation of two teams, the "Stingers" (coached by Rick Carlson) and "Polars" (coached by Chris Winkel). A Kick-Off Event was hosted at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus, which helped to attract additional skaters and attention. The Star Tribune ran a story about the Kick-Off Event which was key in helping to secure MNSH’s first donation to the program.
Shortly after the Star Tribune story ran, the president of Premier Bank contacted Susie Miller to say, "I was told to find you and give you money." He then sent a check for $1,500 to help get MNSH off the ground.
Minnesota Made Ice Center then became the first ice facility to step-up to support our program and donate ice time for the first season. Quality jerseys were also needed, but weren’t in the budget. That is, until the Minnesota Wild called to say they had a group of season ticket holders that wanted to donate $1,200 to a local charity, and the group wanted to give the money to us! The money allowed us to be able to order the jerseys we wanted. This was the start of a great partnership with Section 108 season ticket holders and Minnesota Special Hockey, which still exists today.
Currently there are 10 teams with over 180 players. Our program is centered around weekly Sunday one hour games or practices, which run from the first week in November to the first week in March. In addition there is a summer get-together (generally a picnic), the season Open Skate event in October at Mariucci Arena (University of Minnesota), the Madison tournament in February, and the USA Disability Festival in March.