Visually-Impaired Players Raise Funds For Blind Hockey

Jake Cooper - 10 Sep 2021

A team of visually impaired hockey players has inline skated from Windsor to Ottawa to raise money for grassroots Blind Hockey programmes and grow awareness of the sport in Canada.

After commencing on 5 September with a visit to Toronto, the team of four inline skated to Ottawa from their departure point in Windsor. They paid visits at various stops along their way, including Belleville, Brockville, Durham, Gananoque, Kanata, Kingston, and Smiths Falls. Their journey ended with a grand arrival ceremony in Ottawa on 11 September.

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Fundraising Target Achieved

The executive director of Canadian Blind Hockey, Matt Morrow, reassured the public that the four blind inline skaters each had a fully sighted navigational assistant. This ensured that they could cope with the terrain and traffic on their way to Ottawa. Matt said that the four skaters had aimed at covering 100 kms every day to achieve their overall goal of raising $100 000. However, they had easily surpassed this goal early on in their cross-country crusade.

Except for certain rules specifically in place for the visually impaired, there is not much to differentiate Blind Hockey from the regular version of the sport. Shorter nets and a bigger puck which contains metal ball bearings to create the necessary noise for players to be able to hear it are the only two major differences. Before crossing the blue line to score, players also have to attack with a pass first.

There are currently fourteen teams of Blind Hockey in Canada, compared to the initial four which existed at its foundation in 2011. Today, the USA boasts twenty teams, and six more countries have embraced the sport, such as England, the Soviet Union, and some Scandinavian countries.

10 Year Celebration

Marking his 10th anniversary of fundraising for Bind Hockey is Mark DeMontis, the current Forward on the national Blind Hockey team for Canada. DeMontis was the founder of Canadian Blind Hockey and says that it took him on a new journey in life.

When he was 17, DeMontis began to lose his eyesight due to Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, the hereditary disorder that eventually led to his vision loss. He was about to enter his senior year at York Memorial Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke and had big dreams of playing in the NHL. He was playing AAA hockey and was hoping for an NCAA hockey scholarship, but his failing eyesight thwarted his future plans.

In 2009 he took himself skating from Toronto to Vancouver on his first fundraiser for the sport. Then, he did it again in 2011, when he skated to Toronto from Halifax.

With the successful fundraiser behind his team, DeMontis proudly says that the eventual dream is to get to the Paralympic Games after a six-country championship. As he so rightly states, there is no reason why Blind Hockey shouldn’t be in the Paralympics. But before it’s added, other countries have to start playing the game too.

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