After more than three years of hard work, the Nova Scotia Special Needs Hockey Club – an organization providing hockey to men and women with special needs over age 5 – is officially up and running.
“Special needs hockey is for athletes who, because of their disability can’t play in a mainstream program,” said Ian Readey, founder and president of the hockey club.
“The eligibility criteria is autism, Down syndrome, Aspergers or any other developmental disability.”
The club only started in the fall and already has 25 members.
Readey said the program is a result of his own experiences trying to find a team to play with. He originally played for a team in Ontario in 2012, then played with another special needs team in Washington, D.C.
“Basically, I started this team because I got sick of having to travel such distances just to play Canada’s game,” Readey said.
No experience is required to join the team. In fact, Readey said, you don’t even need to know how to skate.
“To play special hockey, you don’t even need to know how to skate, you just have to have a physical ability to be able to be taught,” Readey said.
“Fun, friendship and participation is the name of the game. Special hockey is a therapeutic activity.”
The idea is to give players an opportunity to participate in hockey in a safe, fun and supportive environment.
“I couldn’t play hockey when I was like a little child because my mom couldn’t afford it, the payments. But I’ve played floor hockey with my friends and I had a little bit of a passion, like a hobby,” said Matthew Tench, one of the players on the team.
“I think this is an awesome opportunity to become a team … and I think it’s all about hockey and hockey is all about having fun and players are just having a great time,” added player Owen Mann.
The Special Needs Hockey Club is the first of its kind east of Ontario. It not only focuses on participation but also inclusion.
The club is made possible with the support of Hockey Nova Scotia.
“Our goal is to make sure that every kid or child that wants to participate in hockey has the opportunity and this is one more opportunity to do that,” said Darren Cossar, executive director of Hockey Nova Scotia.
The hope is that the program can expand in the near future across the Maritimes. That way, other people can experience the joy that hockey brings.
“It means everything to be able to play hockey like an ordinary person,” said Readey.
For more information about the Special Needs Hockey Club, you can visit their website here.
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