Blind ice hockey’s NY Nightshade have started a fundraising campaign on crowdrise to raise money to grow the sport in the United States. The campaign, launched three days ago, has raised US$100 of its US$2,000 goal. Funds raised will go towards providing transportation and accommodation for athletes competing in national competitions, transportation to and from try-it sessions, equipment to be loaned out to players and teams, and other costs associated with growing the game.
New York Nightshades played the first formally organized game of blind ice hockey in the United States in 2013 in a game played in Newburgh, New York. Working with Courage USA Ice Hockey, they are starting off 2016 with a number of blind ice hockey events. These include come and try-it and training sessions at Ice Time Arena in Newburgh, NY on Saturday, January 9, 23, and 30th at 1:45 PM, Saturday, Feb 6, 13, and 27 at 1:45 PM and Saturday, March 5, 19, 26 at 1:45 PM local time. It also includes a try-it event in Washington, DC from 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM on Saturday, February 20 at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia. Then on March 11, the National Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament gets underway in Toronto, Canada with a number of American players expected to take part. The USA Disabled Hockey festival takes place from April 7 to April 10 in Fraser, Michigan. New York Nightshades is working on raising funds to send blind hockey players to the event.
Behind the scenes, there has been a tremendous push in both Canada and the United States to get more traction in the sport, with a goal of organizing a world championship in the next few years. Established in 2008, Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament is currently the biggest tournament in the world, drawing 100 mostly Canadian players to compete in it. The Courage USA Ice Hockey for the Blind was created in 2014, and worked with the Canadians to develop a sustainable model for the United States.
Blind hockey is a mixed gender sport. All players are required to wear full face masks.The puck used is larger than the standard puck used in ice hockey, and has been adapted to make noise as it moves along the ice. Low vision players are in goal or play in defense. Because the puck does not make noise in the air, goals can only be scored if they are made in the bottom 3 feet of the net. All goals must have at least one completed pass on the offensive side of the red line to count. This is to make it easier for the goalkeeper and defenders to track puck movement. To give players with different levels of vision an even chance of getting the puck on a face off, the puck is put on the ice and players can only touch it after the referee’s whistle.