USA hosts Canada in Historic First Ever International Competition for the Parasport of Blind Ice Hockey this Weekend
USA vs Canada best-of-three game series will take place at 5th annual
USA Hockey – Blind Hockey Summit. October 12 – 14, 2018. Pittsburgh, PA.
(October 10, 2018. Pittsburgh, PA) The International Blind Ice Hockey Federation is proud to announce that the first ever international competition in the history of the parasport of Blind Hockey will take place this weekend at the 2018 USA Hockey – Blind Hockey Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The competition takes place at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex – the practice rink of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins – between October 12 and 14, and the format is USA vs Canada in a best-of-three game series.
The event marks the first time Blind Hockey athletes have had the opportunity to compete in a best-on-best competition and is a major stepping stone towards founding a World Championships for Blind Hockey, and ultimately applying for inclusion in the Paralympic Games. The event is free and open to the public, and will be streamed live with play-by-play on YouTube.
The parasport of Blind Hockey is currently played across the United States and Canada by athletes who are blind or visually impaired, which is defined as having approximately 10% vision or less. The sport is extremely similar to traditional ice hockey, with the biggest difference being that the players use an adapted puck that makes noise and is larger than a traditional puck. Typically, athletes with the most vision play forward, athletes with less vision play defence, and athletes with no vision at all play defence or goal: by rule all goaltenders must be completely blind.
While the parasport of Blind Hockey is currently only played in the USA and Canada, over the past season athletes from England and Finland have participated in North American competitions and camps with the goal of bringing Blind Hockey to Europe. The plan is to establish the first European training camp in 2019, hold a four nations cup in 2020, found the World Championships for Blind Hockey in 2022, and apply for inclusion in the 2026 Paralympic Winter Games.
The sport of Blind Hockey was invented in Canada in 1972 and has been played recreationally across the country ever since, however it was not organized at a national competitive level until 2010 with the founding of the Canadian Blind Hockey Association. Part of Canadian Blind Hockey’s mission is to spread the parasport of Blind Hockey worldwide with the goal of creating international competition, and so a partnership with geographic neighbours, and hockey rivals, the United States became a logical starting point.
The sport was introduced to the US in 2013, when current USA Hockey Disabled Section, Blind Hockey Representative, Kevin Shanley, participated in the Canadian National Blind Hockey Tournament and became the first American to compete in the sport. Shanley then partnered with USA Hockey and Canadian Blind Hockey, to found the inaugural USA Hockey – Blind Hockey Summit in Newburgh, New York in the fall of 2014. In the five years since he discovered the sport, Blind Hockey has spread across the United States growing from one single player in Shanley, to nine established teams and well over 100 participants.
“It has been a privilege to see this sport grow across the US,” said Shanley. “I really enjoy playing Blind Hockey and set out recruiting to both bring the game to America, and also to find a team to compete against the Canadians. It’s very satisfying to see that only five years later we’ve accomplished both those goals, thanks to the efforts of many of our great volunteers in the US Blind Hockey Community.”
In addition to serving as Blind Hockey Representative for USA Hockey, Kevin Shanley is also a member of the inaugural Team USA and will be competing in Pittsburgh. Blind Hockey is the newest discipline for the USA Hockey Disabled Section, which also includes Amputee Hockey, Deaf Hockey, Special Hockey, Sled Hockey, and Warrior Hockey.
This competition also marks the first time Canada has ever named a Canadian National Blind Hockey Team despite the sport’s 46 year history, as previously the organization had no need, as there were no other countries to compete against.
“I have been playing Blind Hockey for 35 years since I was a child,” said Gary Steeves, President of Canadian Blind Hockey and blind goaltender for Team Canada. “I have always dreamed of having the opportunity to represent my country someday in the sport that I love. I am proud to say that the next generation of kids who are blind or visually impaired will now grow up having that opportunity and goal to strive for, and will now know that the sport of hockey is inclusive for them as well.”
EVENT: USA vs Canada International Blind Hockey Series
LOCATION: UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. 8000 Cranberry Springs Drive, Cranberry Township, PA.
SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME UTC-4:00)
Friday, October 12, 2018 Game 1 4:40 PM – 6:50 PM
Saturday, October 13, 2018 Game 2 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Sunday, October 14, 2018 Game 3 9:30 AM – 10:50 AM
In competitive Blind Hockey, all players must comply with the International Blind Sports Federation (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 is typically made up of seven B3 skaters, five B2 or B1 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.
The current North America Blind Hockey Calendar involves five major annual competitions: The USA Hockey – Blind Hockey Summit in October, the Canadian Blind Hockey Western Regional Tournament in November, the Canadian National Blind Hockey Tournament in March, the USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival in March, and the Canadian Blind Hockey Eastern Regional Tournament which takes place in the spring.
In addition to the USA vs Canada International Blind Hockey Series, the 5th annual USA Hockey – Blind Hockey Summit will feature children and youth, beginner, and adult divisions with nearly 50 players from across North America.
Current Canadian Blind Hockey programs include: the Toronto Ice Owls (1972), Les Hiboux de Montreal (1976), the Calgary Seeing Ice Dogs (1979), the Edmonton SeeHawks (1979), the Vancouver Eclipse (1995), as well as new Nova Scotia Blind Hockey, the Newfoundland Eye-Landers, and the GTA Youth Blind Hockey programs that all began in 2017.
Current US Blind Hockey programs include: the NY Nightshade (2014), the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey Club (2015), the Washington Wheelers (2015), the Pittsburgh Penguins Blind Hockey Club (2016), the Hartford Braillers (2016), NY Metro Blind Hockey (2017), Colorado Visioneers (2018), the St Louis Blues Blind Hockey Club (2018), and the Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey Club (2018).
For more information about the sport, the competition, and how to get involved please visit blindicehockey.com.
Sport Director, International Blind Ice Hockey Federation
Executive Director, Canadian Blind Hockey