Wednesday, May 11, 2011

She shoots, she scores!

I received this moving story from David and Carol Fisher who run a hockey team in Peterborough, Ont. for players with physical, emotional or neurodevelopmental challenges. David and Carol have two adopted sons with disabilities and their eldest daughter, who has cerebral palsy, attended Holland Bloorview's nursery school years ago.

Check out a very special moment in hockey history, described below by the Fishers and coach Dale Lowe, on this Youtube video.

We are called the Kawartha Komets Special Needs Hockey program. We now have 35 players on two teams aged six to 41 years of age. We are part of an organization in Canada called Special Hockey International and we just returned home from a tournament in Boston. This event was attended by over 1,000 hockey players who were part of 68 teams from across Canada and the U.S.

As the undefeated Junior Komets entered their final game against the Steel City Icebergs of Pittsburgh, it was clear that our team was faster and more skilled than its opponents. Realizing this, our juniors quickly adapted their game, showing a tremendous amount of empathy for the Icebergs. Then, the most incredible, spontaneous act of sportsmanship happened in front of the Steel City net.

Brandon of the Kawartha Komets gave the puck to 6-year-old Nicole Mullins of the Icebergs. As you will see in the video, Nicole uses a custom-made walker created by her father, fully equipped with her hockey stick. Nicole was born with hip dysplasia. She has two dislocated hips, two short-bent femurs, and two club feet. But, special needs hockey has allowed her to be part of a team and achieve her goals.

After Brandon put the puck on Nicole's stick, the entire Komet line skated the length of the ice beside her, and watched her score a goal -- as fans from both sides cheered wildly. Afterwards, there were tears running down the cheeks of many of us who had witnessed this unprompted, unscripted act of sportsmanship. We have never been so proud to be part of a sports program.

Brandon, the young man who passed the puck to the little girl, has lived in group homes since age five and was always told he could never play hockey. He has a developmental delay and is a natural on the ice. He has never played hockey before and is incredibly intuitive and versatile.

We wanted to share this story with you to encourage parents of children with disablities. Some time ago you had an article on the BLOOM blog about a father who had a little boy who suffered a stroke in utero. The father expressed concern about the challenges his little guy would face in life with one side of his body paralyzed. Our junior goalie also has hemiplegia and plays goal without a goalie stick. He is very good because his father and his brothers, who are very athletic, have been taking shots on him since he was a toddler. He is the goalie in the video and his name is Colin. I would love for that father to see that video because I feel it would be very encouraging for him to see that sometimes children learn how to compensate for the challenges in life that they face.


That is so cool! And I'm a bit in awe of this little two attempts at ice skating were absolute disasters. Kudos to all the players and to the Fishers and Coach Lowe!

Thank you for this wonderful post. I'm the Dad you mentioned - I'm touched that you remembered my post and are thinking of my family. I am thrilled about the hockey program that you are running. We've been thinking about a sport for our little guy, and I'm more encouraged than ever to get him involved in sports now. We recently found a program close by that teaches kids with disabilities to ride bicycles. But after seeing what you've done here, I'm sure there must be more. We will keep looking out. Thank you again for your post and for thinking of us.

Cute. Who cannot smile after seeing those photos?!

My 14yr old son joined Special Hockey in Newmarket in 2007, at that time he could not stand on skates, but there was always a helper on the ice with him all practice and all game. In every Special Hockey game every athlete on the team plays in their shift, usually every 3 to 4 minutes, regardless of ability, so for the rest of that season he always had a helper with him. By the end of the season he was standing and was able to move but still with assistance.
At the end of that season we attended his first Special Hockey International tournament, and the last game our juniors played we experienced a similar event when 2 players were selected (1 from each team, my son was one) and the ref led them to centre ice. The ref then laid the puck down in front and each player got to take that puck down the ice (with their assistants) and score their first goal.
The whole organization promotes that comraderie throughout and it is fully evident almost everywhere we go relating to Special Hockey. Today he can "skate/shuffle" independently (and quite fast when he wants to), although he still cannot get up off the ice without assistance on the rare occasions he does fall.
We owe his achievement and subsequent confidence to the wonderful coaches and volunteers we have, without whom he would never have had this opportunity.