Saturday, February 20, 2016, Kettler Iceplex hosted “Try Blind Hockey” on the Washington Capitals ice rink. The event was presented with the help of USA Hockey as part of Hockey is For Everyone Month. As the Capitals explained, the event was “intended to expose visually impaired players of all ages to hockey.”
About Blind Hockey
USA Blind Hockey has its roots in Courage USA. Founded in September 2014, Courage USA, with its sister organization, Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind, hope to develop and expand the rapidly growing Parasport of blind or visually impaired hockey. Since 2008, Courage Canada Hockey has been teaching children and youth learn to skate and Try Blind Ice Hockey. Currently there are seven Canadian blind hockey teams. The participants vision ranges for 10 percent vison to totally blind. Started in the mid-70s in Canada, some of the differences in blind hockey compared to a regular hockey game are:
Goals can be scored only on the bottom half of the net because the goalies are legally blind and pucks don’t make noise in the air.
The puck they use an adapted puck that makes constant noise, is both bigger and slower than a traditional puck, made of hollow steel and contains eight ball bearings.
The partially blind can see the bigger puck and those who are completely blind can hear the puck.
Courage USA hopes to mirror the efforts of the Canadian league to make blind hockey an international sport. If you would like to help support USA Hockey and blind hockey, please check out their web page at www.usahockeyfoundation.com
Brendan Friedrich and Blind Hockey
When we heard that it was Try Blind Hockey Day at Kettler, we were intrigued to learn how someone who is blind plays hockey. Before the Blind Hockey program began, we were watching Caps practice and we met a young man named Brendan who was there to not only try blind hockey, but get the VIP treatment from the Capitals, including meeting his favorite player (and mine) Braden Holtby!
Brendan was standing next to the FICP crew by the glass as the Caps started to skate out. We introduced ourselves and then starting telling him who was skating past him and his family. Brendan himself is blind but you wouldn’t know that from his enthusiastic responses on hearing that Holtby was out on the ice and taking shots from players at the other end of the rink for early goalie practice.
Next thing we knew, Brendan was being interviewed by Scott Abraham of Channel 7 ABC News. Before we could get anymore descriptions on who was out there to Brendan, he was whisked over to meet with Caps radio broadcaster John Walton on the other side of the rink. From there we saw Brendan and his family smile the whole time he was watching thru the glass, hearing the pucks hitting the glass right in front of him. You could see he was yelling at that player to shoot harder!
After Caps practice was over, Brendan and his family were taken to the locker room to meet Braden Holtby and get not only a jersey signed by Holtby but a real game used Holtby goalie stick including one for his brother. Braden Holtby proving once again, he is a class act! If you haven’t seen the video of Brendan’s meeting with Holtby, go watch it now. It’s such a great moment for everyone!
Blind Hockey at Kettler
Following practice, the Capitals rink was resurfaced and it was time for Try Blind Hockey. Watching all the skaters being led by volunteers was an unbelievable experience and the main reason I came to Kettler for the day. The Caps holding a practice beforehand was icing on the cake. The best part of watching Try Blind Hockey was the volunteers who were genuinely excited to be there and help out people on the ice. There was one young man who was having some trouble figuring out how to get his feet to move on the ice with the skates on and the volunteer got down on his knees on the cold ice to help move his feet for him. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had and I can’t wait to get more involved in these parts of the hockey community.
As for Brendan, after skating he moved into the broadcast booth, where he’s most comfortable to do a little announcing and to get warmed up for his debut later that night with Wes Johnson at Verizon center to announce the caps on to the ice for warmups!! Our thanks to Patrick McDermott of the Washington Capitals for sharing these photos of Brendan in the booth with Wes.
Well done Brendan!! And you were good luck for the Caps to comeback and beat the NJ Devils 4-3 We were so thankful to meet Brendan and we look forward to following Brendan and his career as an announcer!
The Washington Capitals hosted the 14th annual Salute to the Military and left your FiCP members feeling proud of where we live and the attention the Caps organization pays to our servicemen and women. Many fans were decked out in camo gear or wearing Caps Courage apparel in support of the members of the military who serve our nation.
The event began before the doors even opened with an on-line auction for camo jerseys, helmets, and other items that brought $46,125 for USO-Metro and Defending the Blue Line. Additionally, proceeds from the purchase of Courage Caps and t-shirts will help fund Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) activities in the future.
When the players took to the ice for warmups they were sporting the camo jerseys that were auctioned off during the game by Handbid, on behalf of the Caps organization. Before the night was over Braden Holtby’s jersey brought $1,450 and his helmet fetched the highest bid of the night at $5,350. Grubauer’s helmet came in next at $3,450 while Ovi’s jersery raised $1,900.
When the Caps re-entered the ice the Navy Youth Hockey created a flag tunnel for them. The Caps and Islanders lined up as the Military District of Washington’s U.S. Army Band Quartet, featuring M. Sgt. Caleb Green (Ret.), performed the national anthem. The US Army Honor Guard presented the flags. Most notable about the beginning of the game was a ceremonial puck drop by LCPL Josh Misiewicz, U.S. National Sled Hockey Team.
According to USA Hockey, Misiewicz is a double above-knee amputee who was injured by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan. He served with 1st Battalion 5th Marines and has skated with the sled team since 2011. Thank you sir, for your sacrifice.
USA WarriorsIce Hockey’s mission is to “organize and administer an ice hockey program that provides a recreational, therapeutic experience and education.”
Throughout the evening the Capitals paid tribute to service members, highlighting their careers and families. Each branch of the military was represented during the night. During the second intermission the USA Warriors hockey team (Adam Devine, Rob Easley, Ralph DeQuebec, Kevin Gatson, and Josh Misiewicz) presented a skills exhibition to give fans an idea of how they play the game and how hockey can be such a positive element of the healing process. TAPS also presented a video that documented the long-standing relationship they have with the Caps and profiled the importance this organization has in the lives of families. We were excited to see old friends Courtney and Brooke Nyren who not only were helped by TAPS, but many years later are still active in the organization—giving their time to help other families heal.
Joining the 500 and more servicemen, servicewomen, and their families, was General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Milley played hockey as a young boy and eventually was part of the Princeton Tigers from 1977 to 1979. In his interview with Jill Sorenson he said he appreciates the expression of thanks, especially from the greater American public. He joked that he had planned to be drafted into the NHL but ended up drafted in the military instead.Although he is a Bruins fan, he likes the Capitals—his son is an even bigger fan. Thank you General Milley for being a part of this special night.
The night ended with a hard-fought win by the Caps over the Islanders. It was a pleasure to be part of the audience that honored some many brave men and women. It doesn’t need to end there though—remember we can still support these great organizations and we can still personally thank the men and women in uniform. Click the links above to find out more about these fine organizations.