Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Special Hockey Weekend

I typically write about policy issues on this blog, but I thought many readers would be interested in how I spent last weekend -- at the first-ever American Special Hockey Tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y. Since the historic "Miracle on Ice" game in 1980, when the USA team beat the Soviet Union in one of the biggest upsets of all time, there have been hundreds of events and tournaments. But last weekend was the first time a tournament was held in Herb Brooks Arena specifically for people with disabilities.

Special Hockey: Do You Believe in Miracles? from Mark Miller on Vimeo.

Parent Jean Stimey Winegardner wrote a terrific blog post about the tournament, specifically asking if the word "miracle" is accurate or exaggerated in describing the experience.

"I struggle after every single hockey trip to let you know what it is like at these tournaments. I mean, it’s like any other away game trip, right? Kids play games. Some have rough days. Some have incredible days. You swim in the hotel pool. You explore the town. It’s just a team trip, right?

"But it’s not. Part of it is that some of these kids won’t get a lot of opportunities to travel for sports. Part of it is that these tournaments are a space where it is safe for these players to be themselves. Part of it is that these players, who have to work so hard in everyday life, are heroes on the ice. Part of it is that the players get to relax and form friendships, something that can be so hard for some young people with disabilities. Part of it is that these players put on a ton of gear and kick ass at a sport that you and I would probably suck at.

"But it’s more than that.

"I have never seen nor experienced such sportsmanship, respect, and camaraderie as I do at these tournaments. There is competition and there are fierce match-ups, but there are also games where on-ice rivals help each other and make sure the puck gets to players that don’t skate as fast or that don’t have the same skills. I’m not talking about the coaches. I’m talking about the players helping each other. I’m talking about inter-team congratulations, celebrations, and encouragement between players. I’m also talking about teams skating as hard as they can to win. There is that too. There is some fantastic hockey at these tournaments."

I encourage you to read her post, "Miracles on Ice." And consider subscribing to her blog -- it's better and more engaging than most parent blogs.

You don't have to be a hockey fan to be inspired by these players. Learn more about the American Special Hockey Association and programs in your area.
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