California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Ducks host blind hockey events at The Rinks-Irvine Inline

 

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“Hockey Is For Everyone” has become more than just a month-long initiative by the NHL – it’s now a motto that the league strives to support on a year-long basis.

The Anaheim Ducks and THE RINKS have embraced this motto by introducing or helping existing disabled hockey programs in the special hockey, sled hockey and Warrior Hockey disciplines.

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However, on June 22, they dipped into the blind hockey discipline when they hosted the first introductory blind hockey clinic at The Rinks-Irvine Inline. The clinic, which saw over 20 blind athletes attend, was hosted as a street hockey clinic to get participants familiar with fundamentals such as stickhandling, shooting, and passing before taking to the ice and learning how to skate at the next event on Saturday, July 27 at Great Park ICE.

The events and the potential of an established blind hockey program in Southern California have been backed by Blake Steinecke, a forward for the U.S. Blind Hockey Team. Steinecke, who was the head coach and main spokesperson at the first event, grew up regularly playing ice and roller hockey while growing up in San Marcos before he began to have trouble with his vision.

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“Everybody has their own story and everybody’s going through something,” Steinecke said. “There’s often a lot we can’t see that’s going on with someone.”

During the summer before his junior year of high school, he noticed some minor blurriness in his right eye, but nothing he considered alarming. He wasn’t even sure a trip to the doctor was necessary, but follow-up testing revealed Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a rare condition that typically begins in a person’s teens or 20s and by his senior year of high school, Steinecke had lost his central vision in both eyes.

Although at first, he wasn’t excited to play hockey after losing his vision, he quickly rediscovered his passion and has seen that passion grow as he looks to help build the sport.

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“It was great to be out there and see other blind athletes interested in the sport I loved to play growing up and now for the national team,” said Steinecke. “I am excited to share my passion for hockey and hopefully help establish one of the first hockey programs in Southern California for blind athletes.”

“It just made sense to help Blake and help start to establish blind hockey clinics for athletes in Southern California” added Tanner Privia, marketing associate for THE RINKS. “Our organization has always had the support from management down to help grow all disciplines of hockey. Whether we introduce new players to the sport of hockey, help low-income families with financial support to play hockey, or one of the disabled segments of hockey grow, we are always excited and looking to help grow the game of hockey for everyone.

“We have already made large steps in the sled hockey and special hockey disciplines and are very excited to help start this program.”

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For those unfamiliar with blind hockey, it is the same fast-paced sport of hockey with a few modifications. The most significant modification is that the sport features an adapted puck that makes noise and is both bigger and slower than a traditional puck. Players’ levels of vision range from legally blind – approximately 10 percent vision or less – to totally blind. Typically, totally blind athletes play goal, lower-sighted athletes play defense, while the higher-sighted athletes play forward.

If you are interested in checking out blind hockey or know any blind athletes that are looking to play hockey, the Anaheim Ducks and THE RINKS will be hosting another free clinic at Great Park ICE on July 27. Unlike the first event that was primarily street hockey based, the clinic will take place on the ice as the new participants look to continue their hockey development.

For more information, visit www.anaheimducks.com/blindhockey.

Photos/Anaheim Ducks

— THE RINKS Staff

(Aug. 22, 2019)