The commonly used term Blind Hockey can be a little misleading to the general public as most blind hockey players have some functional vision. The sport is played by athletes with visual impairments ranging from legally blind – approximately 10% vision or less – to fully blind.
Traditionally athletes with the most functional vision play forward as they are able to make and receive passes, as well as locate the net for shots. Lower vision athletes and totally blind skaters tend to play defense where they can focus on interrupting the play and clearing the puck aside where a teammate with more vision can pick it up and skate it out of danger. Although it sounds counterintuitive, the players with the least vision or no vision play goalie as they do not need to orient themselves while skating around. The French term for the sport – “Hockey Sonore” or Sonar Hockey – provides a better description of the sport as it outlines the key modification – the puck makes noise!
There are several designs of pucks currently used in Blind Hockey. The main idea is for the puck to make noise.
The debate about how exactly the ideal puck should be, is on the back burner while the students at NCSU build a prototype.
This is a photo of Blind Hockey player and comedian Mike Simmonds displaying a battered metal puck used in blind Hockey
The next step is to try and unify the rules of these 3 similar, yet distinctly different games. Some sample rules from the 3 different teams and the reasons that they are implemented:
1 - Goals can only be scored in the bottom half of the net. Reason: Goalies are blind and pucks don’t make noise in the air.
2 - You must make a pass in the offensive zone before you can shoot. Reason: Helps goalie know where puck is coming from. Makes game more inclusive and team based.
3 - If a player enters the crease of the goalie the play is blown dead and it is an offside. Reason: Safety! Players cannot necessarily see where goalie is, goalie cannot see where they are.
4 - High sticking is an automatic major penalty. Reason: Players need to be responsible for their sticks as people cannot necessarily see where they are.
5 - All players must wear a full face shield and neck guard. Reason: Safety!
6 - Players are given 3 feet leeway on offsides. Reason: Players with vision impairments can have difficulty knowing exactly where the blue line is – especially at full speed.
Not all teams employ all of these rules, and there are some other adaptations as well. However as a group Canadian Blind Hockey is committed to discussing and creating the best set of rules possible so that all Canadians, regardless of their degree of visual impairment, can fully take part in the national pastime
Courage Canada Hockey for the Blind is a national registered charity that leads the development of the sport of Blind Hockey and provides children and youth with the opportunity to learn to skate and try Blind Hockey. We work collaboratively with the Canadian Blind Hockey teams to grow the sport of Blind Hockey in Canada and around the world, and partner with district school board vision programs to organize skating field trips that inspire, educate, and empower boys and girls who are blind or visually impaired from coast to coast. CLICK ON PHOTO FOR INFORMATION
Legend has it that the idea for a team of blind and visually impaired players began with a fist fight between two opposing Metro Toronto Hockey League coaches. Once tempers had cooled, fists had lowered, and peace been achieved, the two coaches decided to celebrate their armistice by going out together for a beer - A Hockey Beer.
Maybe it was the raised emotions of the ruckus fueled by a couple of cold beers, but the coaches soon found themselves discussing how they could do something for the game they loved so much. Something that would give back to the game in a special way. Somthing that would give back to the game in a special way. They came up with the inspired idea of a team of blind Hockey players. They went further then that; they started the team, arranged for ice time at the Mitchell Field Community Centre in Willowdale, Ontario. They also coached the 1st participants to play. That was in 1972.
The sport of Blind Hockey in Canada has a long and largely undocumented history dating back to the early 1970’s. Various versions of the game have been played in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Renfrew, Toronto and Vancouver, and those are just the places we know of for sure.
Because of the way the sport evolved simultaneously, there are several different versions of the rules, and many different versions of the puck. This is not uncommon in the development of sport – look no further than international sized ice compared to North American ice.
No surprise Blind Hockey is truly a Canadian invention as there is no evidence to suggest that it is played anywhere else in the world. (A google search will yield many versions of blind field hockey but no other ice hockey programs). 15 – 20 years ago the sport was thriving so much that there were full rosters and stories of heated rivalries between Edmonton and Calgary, and Quebec and Montreal to name a few.