Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament returns to Toronto this weekend

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Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament Returns to Toronto this Weekend

Fourth annual event introduces new Select Division All-Star Series aimed at growing the sport internationally, with goal of World Championship & eventual inclusion in Paralympic Games

 

(March 8, 2016. Toronto, ON) AMI Accessible Media Inc. presents the fourth annual Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament brought to you by the CNIB – Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The tournament runs from Friday, March 11 through Sunday, March 13 at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada.  It will be largest and most geographically diverse Blind Hockey tournament in the history of the sport, with participants representing eight Canadian provinces and two US states.  New to this year’s event is the exciting addition of the Select Division, which features the top players from across North America facing-off in an All-Star three game series.

The Select Division implements the International Blind Sports Federation’s (IBSA) classification system, and introduces a new point system for the sport of Blind Hockey for the first time. These two developments are major leaps forward that will allow this great recreational game to mature into a competitive international parasport, with goals of establishing a World Championship and inclusion in the Paralympic Games.

“All competitive parasports must have a classification system to ensure that the competition is fair and equal, and that the outcome is determined by skill and performance, rather than degree of impairment,” says Canadian Blind Hockey Association Executive Director Matt Morrow. “In a team sport like Blind Hockey, implementing a point system is crucial as it allows teams that are made up of athletes with different degrees of visual impairment to compete with and against each other in best-on-best competitions, with the overall level of vision on the team being equalized.”

Players in the Select Division must comply with the IBSA classification eligibility standards. In the IBSA classification system, an athlete who is blind or partially sighted is classed as either a B1 – no vision, a B2 – approximately 5% functional vision or less, or a B3 – 10% or less. Each team in the Select Series is made up of seven B3 skaters, five B2 skaters, and two B1 goalies who are each assigned the corresponding amount of points. To ensure a fair game that is determined by skill and performance rather than level of vision, each team may have a maximum of 14 points on the ice at any given time. All goalies must be classified as B1 – no functional vision.

B3 players will be identified by black helmets, while B2 players will be identified by wearing white helmets. Similar to too many men on the ice, there is a minor penalty for too many points on the ice, and any time a player takes a penalty, the team loses the penalized player’s amount of points during the penalty kill.

For the 2016 Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament Select Division All-Star Series, the top Blind Hockey players from across North America are divided into the Western All-Stars made up of members of the Vancouver Eclipse and Edmonton SeeHawks, and the Eastern All-Stars who are made up of players from the hometown Toronto Ice Owls, Les Hiboux de Montreal, the NY Nightshades, and players from Atlantic Canada.

In addition to the Select Division, the Open Division will feature over 50 players that will be divided into four tournament teams named Pacific, Prairies, Central and Atlantic, that will compete in a three game round-robin with bronze and gold medal games on Sunday, March 13. A cornerstone of the Blind Hockey movement remains promoting participation in the sport at all levels from playground to podium, and the Open Division is an opportunity for all Canadians who are blind or partially sighted to play the sport they love. The division promises to be just as competitive as previous tournaments, as the teams vie for the Open Division Championship with a mix of young up-and-coming players, newer developing players, as well as older, more experienced players.

This is also the last Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament organized by Toronto based charity Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind.  Resulting from the phenomenal growth within the sport under the leadership of Courage Canada, the organization is currently evolving and re-branding into the new Canadian Blind Hockey Association.

Gary Steeves is the incoming President of the organization, and has formerly served as President of the Canadian Blind Sports Association for 10 years, the Vice-President of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), and has played more than 20 years as a Blind Hockey goalie.

“When I co-founded the Vancouver Eclipse in 1995, it was my dream to bring all of the Blind Hockey teams across Canada together to build a sport that would end up in the Paralympics,” says Steeves. “We’re not quite there yet, but with the ongoing growth of the sport in Canada and the USA, we are well on our way!”

The event is 100% free to come experience in person, or through the high quality live web broadcast, which will feature professional play-by-play and colour commentary from Rob Simpson of SiriusXM NHL Network and AMI Accessible Media Inc’s “Sports Access,” as well as OHL and CWHL broadcaster Nicco Cardarelli. Please visit www.blindicehockey.com for full web broadcast details.

 

2016 CANADIAN BLIND HOCKEY TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

 
Friday, March 11 

12:30 pm – 12:45 pm – Tournament Opening Ceremonies
12:45 pm – 2:00 pm – Open Division Game # 1: Pacific vs Central
2:00 pm – 3:15 pm – Open Division Game # 2: Prairies vs Atlantic
3:15 pm – 3:30 pm – Select Division Opening Ceremonies
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm – Select Division East vs West All-Stars Game # 1

 
Saturday, March 12 
2:00 pm – 3:15 pm – Open Division Game # 3: Pacific vs Prairies
3:15 pm – 4:45 pm – Open Division Game # 4: Atlantic vs Central
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm – Select Division East vs West All-Stars Game # 2
6:30 pm – 7:45 pm – Open Division Game # 5: Pacific vs Atlantic
7:45 pm – 9:00 pm – Open Division Game #6: Central vs Prairies

 
Sunday, March 13 

10:00 am – 11:15 am – Open Division: BRONZE MEDAL GAME
11:15 am – 12:30 pm – Open Division: GOLD MEDAL GAME
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm – Select Division East vs West All-Stars Game # 3

 
The founding of the now annual Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament in 2011 proved to be a defining moment for the sport of Blind Hockey. Participation in the sport has now more than tripled in only three seasons, with well over 100 Blind Hockey players participating regularly across North America. For the first time in the 45 year history of the sport, Blind Hockey has expanded past Canada’s borders with two US Blind Hockey summits and training camps taking place in the state of New York in 2014 and 2015, as well as a series of try-it sessions organized by USA Hockey. Blind Hockey will be included as a discipline for the first time ever in the 2016 USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Detroit on April 9 – 10.

The organization hopes that implementing IBSA classification and establishing a new point system can be a watershed moment for the growth of the competitive sport internationally, and challenges hockey loving nations across the world to found their own Blind Hockey programs. Canada and the United States both now have Blind Hockey programs, but require six other nations to establish teams in order to organize a World Championship, and take the next step toward the dream of inclusion in the Paralympic Games.

For more information on the 2016 Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament & the sport of Blind Hockey, please contact:

 

Matt Morrow
Executive Director
Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind &
The Canadian Blind Hockey Association
www.blindicehockey.com
mattmorrow@couragecanada.ca
(604) 812-6786
Nick Beatty
Communications Director
Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind &
The Canadian Blind Hockey Association
nickbeatty@couragecanada.ca
(778) 877-0687

Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) is a not-for-profit multimedia organization serving more than five million Canadians who are blind, partially sighted, deaf, hard of hearing, mobility or print restricted. Operating three broadcast services, AMI-tv and AMI-audio in English and AMI-télé in French, AMI’s mission is to make accessible media for all Canadians. To learn more visit AMI.ca and AMItele.ca.