Canadian Blind Hockey changing children’s lives
Hockey is Canada’s favourite pastime, and it is truly for everyone.
“Some of the children have never been on the ice – never mind owning skates,” said Luca DeMontis, program manager of Canadian Blind Hockey.
“To see how far they’ve come as a group and as a team is truly the reason we actually started Canadian Blind Hockey.”
Canadian Blind Hockey is a charity that changes the lives of children and youth who are blind or partially sighted by providing blind hockey programming including introductory try-it sessions, development camps, as well as regional and national competitions.
“Members come to Scotiabank Arena Pond every Sunday for one hour. Our youngest is five years old, our oldest is 19,” DeMontis said.
“To watch the growth and the development from these children – it’s been remarkable.”
“There’s a unified set of rules that blind hockey plays under,” said Paul Kerins, head coach of Team Canada’s blind hockey team.
“The three main adaptations to blind hockey is there’s a larger puck that makes noise so it allows players to orientate themselves. Secondly, the net is one foot shorter, and the third main adaptation is there’s a one pass rule.”
Fifteen-year-old Joe Fornasier played traditional hockey until five years ago when everything changed.
”I was missing a lot of passes and I thought I was having a bad day. Then school came around and I couldn’t read the board that well, but it was only one eye that got affected at the start,” said Fornasier, a member of Canadian Blind Hockey.
“I got diagnosed with a rare disease where you go blind in your central vision.”
“Joe has graduated and plays with Toronto Ice Owls and this weekend (March 22 – 24) at the Canadian Blind Hockey Tournament, Joe’s also on Canada East,” said Kerins.
“So Joe has gone through all the levels of Canadian Blind Hockey.”
Against all odds, Fornasier has become an exceptional player moving up the ranks quickly while volunteering his time to help guide and teach the younger players.
“I love to spread the message and show these kids that they can play hockey too — no matter what disability you have,” said Fornasier.
“Growing up as a kid with sight I wanted to be the next Wayne Gretzky,” said DeMontis.
“A lot of kids who are born blind or partially sighted don’t have that role model to look up to. Having that outlet and more importantly that ability to dream of one day wearing your country’s jersey is really all they need to give that little push. I know that push helped Joe get to where he is today.”
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