Two years ago, Ted Caputo, a father of two visually impaired boys, received an email that piqued his interest. He had taken his sons to skate with the New York Islanders, and someone subsequently emailed him to gauge his interest in blind hockey — a sport that started in Canada as early as the 1970s but has slowly gained traction in the U.S.
“I said, ‘What the heck is blind hockey?'” Caputo recalled. “I knew nothing about it at the time. I did a little research and was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ It’s hockey. It’s visually impaired. It’s volunteer work, which we love. I figured to combine the two — volunteering and hockey — would be the perfect niche for my family.”
Yet, nothing came out of the conversation, Caputo said. Determined to find something that his boys (and others who were visually impaired) could look forward to every week, he reached out to USA Hockey, the country’s governing body for organized ice hockey, for advice. Instead of directing him to the closest league or club, the organization suggested that he start a league of his own.
“I said, ‘Well, it wasn’t my original intention,'” Caputo said. “And the joke always is I’m not an athlete, I don’t skate, I don’t play hockey. But you know, with the right support, with the right volunteers, with the right advice from the right people, you can really put a good program together.”
Ice hockey is a sport that requires intense coordination. Players not only have to skate forward, side-to-side and backward, they also need to know how to execute a crossover and recover to a balanced standing position. Throw in a hockey stick and a one-inch-thick puck, and athletes quickly find themselves testing their reflexes. Add the risk of getting hit by the puck at an extreme velocity or by another player charging at full speed, and the sport becomes a test of character.
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