It’s all too common for those with disabilities to be looked at for what they are unable to do, but not what they are capable of. Despite this, blind hockey players who range from legally blind to compete blindness continue to prove that hockey is truly for everyone.
Blind Hockey is hockey, plain and simple with a few minor rule changes. As per Blind Hockey rules, the forwards have the greatest degree of sight, followed by the defensemen, followed by the goalies. The most notable difference is the puck. Unlike the traditional hockey puck which is 6 ounces, three inches across and made from vulcanized rubber, the puck used in blind hockey is slightly larger andmade of steel with ball bearings inside.
Other notable rules are:
Face-offs begin with the puck on the ice and the players may only touch it on the referee’s whistle – this makes it a competition of reaction time and does not favor the player with the most vision.
Goals may only be scored in the bottom 3 feet of the net – the adapted Blind Hockey puck does not currently make noise in the air so it is unfair to the goalie to score in the top of the net.
Teams must complete one pass prior to being able to score in the attacking half (after the center-ice red line) of the rink – this provides both the low vision defense and the goalie an extra opportunity to track the puck.
Organized Blind hockey was first played in Toronto in 1972 with the founding of the Toronto Ice Owls blind hockey team and Les Hiboux Montreal being founded in 1979. Since then blind hockey has expanded across Canada with teams in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Sudbury, Renfrew and Ottawa. Within the United States, blind hockey was first introduced in 2014 with the first Blind Hockey game being played in Newburgh, NY. The game has expanded within the United States to having four teams: The NY Nightshade, the Washington Wheelers, the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey Team, and the Pittsburgh Penguins Blind Hockey program.
Those with visual disabilities often spend most of their lives being careful, not having the ability to walk too fast or run due to the disability. Hockey is now allowing those with such disabilities to the freedom to be physically active.