Disabled hockey is part of one of the fastest growing demographics of hockey in the United States. There are lots of teams around the world and new ones are starting every year. Here are 10 reasons why if you have a disability, you should play hockey:
1. Learn and play hockey. The most important of them all. No more sitting at home watching Wild games wondering what it's like to don that jersey and take to the ice. If you are blind, in a wheelchair, a wounded soldier, or have developmental disabilities you can play real ice hockey in one of the many disabled programs at a rink near you. Each discipline has adaptations to make hockey playable for all! If there isn't a program close enough, you can start your own and USA Hockey will help you with all the ins and outs of getting started.
2. Join old friends and make new ones. Whether you already know others with disabilities or are looking to connect with people like you, there's no better way than to play the sport we all love. You are not alone and you won't find a more accepting and inclusive environment!
3. Competing on a national and international level. We're not talking about some local-only rec program. You will have the opportunity to travel the world to meet and play against others like you. Every year there are many local, regional, national and international disabled hockey festivals.
4. Accomplish life goals. It's the consistent, persistent pursuit of our potential. Some people just want that chance to take the ice and feel the rush of scoring a goal. Others have difficulties socially they are working to improve upon. Yet others are working to become more active, more mobile or stronger, heck, maybe even lose a little weight. All of these goals (and more) can be achieved playing hockey.
5. Learn Life skills. While setting and reaching your goals, you are also learning new valuable life skills and strengthening skills you already have: teamwork, hard work, perseverance, determination, being selfless, confidence, independence, and so many more!
6. Change Lives. Certainly reaching goals and gaining life skills would do nothing more than change your life for the better! In doing so, we are also having a great positive impact on the people around us and changing their lives as well. That's a pyramid scheme of positivity we can get behind!
7. Unique Experiences. We've visited landmarks like Independence Hall or Niagara Falls. We've toured the Wild locker room, the Ford Rouge Truck Factory and AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys). We've been fortunate to hang out with the Stanley Cup and Brian MacLellan, GM of the Washington Capitals. Or how about the time we played a game with NHL players during Da Beauty League? We can't guarantee all of these will happen to you because opportunities change and we try to do cool new things every year but you may have the opportunity for many unique experiences similar to these.
8. Little to no cost to play (if cost matters to you). We acknowledge that in general that hockey is not cheap. The great part about playing disabled hockey is that programs do everything in their power to help keep costs low and in the event that you may have a financial struggles, have ways to help you cover those costs so you can play. Many have scholarships, sponsors, donations or fundraisers to help with fees. Then they work with local programs to collect donated equipment for you to use.
9. Community Like None Other. Hockey is known for it's large, yet tight night community. This includes disabled hockey. People and programs of typical hockey readily and regularly support the disabled disciplines. Wearing your jersey or team apparel brings conversation just like typical programs. People stop and watch practices and games, learn about the adaptations and are willing to provide instruction to help take your game to the next level. Afterwards, there is a "Band of Brothers" camradery like you would find on any other team.
10. Celebrate acceptance and inclusion. When you play, you are showing the world that you can play and that #HockeyIsForEveryone!
You won't regret joining. See you out there.