Blind Roller Hockey
Just a general announcement...along with our wheelchair hockey club at Xtreet Sports, we are going to begin a weekly session of play for visually impaired hockey players.
Back in '87, I experimented with getting an aural buzzer into an ice puck. The 9-volt battery was the main problem, but after several attempts, it worked. In the late 80's, we played blind soccer for about 6 months, and in '06, we played blind lacrosse for about 4 months. Then I was transferred in my Parks' department job, and the program died...
The United States Association for Blind Athletics (USABA) sanctions several sports for blind players, although, sadly, they are mainly individual activities, such as swimming, archery, track & field, etc. While these programs are excellent, and they go all the way through the international Olympics, there is only a single team sport offered, namely Goal Ball, which is a highly stylized tennis-type of game. Goal Ball is comparatively static when compared to the dynamics of team games like soccer, lacrosse, and hockey.
Some of you may be familiar with beep Baseball, which is also highly adaptive, and employs sighted players "spotting" for the blind players on play.
At Xtreet Sports, we note that inline hockey need not be adapted at all to accommodate blind game play. Yeah, you have the buzzer in the puck, and beepers on both goals, but none of the playing rules are changed at all. It is the same game that sighted athletes play.
It is our goal to develop roller hockey for blind athletes to a legitimate level to include the Olympic Games.
This week, I am working on my own skills as a blind player...can't coach the game if you don't know how to do it yourself. I put on the opaque goggles and went out onto the floor yesterday to practice for the first time. What an "eye opener!" Which I guess is an oxymoronic phrase in this case...I could barely stickhandle a few times before losing the puck...and that was while stationary. Trying to move the puck forward brought even lousier results. Took me the better part of an hour to even move the puck minimally about the floor.
This is gonna take some time to develop.
Next week, I begin training with two sighted athletes, then the following week, we bring in the blind athletes. We anticipate beginning the program with three v.i. players, and the three of us sighted players. When we play, we all go "into the dark," by putting on the opaque goggles.
I will let IHC readers know how this goes, and please allow me to solicit any of you guys who know of extant blind athletic programs. I wish to set up a network and get hockey for blind players to grow all over the place.