It's the start of another special hockey season in Minnesota. I've just reviewed the slideshow from tonight's game, and the teams look great.
Even after 6-7 years of it, I'm always a bit amazed that it works. The range of players is mind-boggling. One team has a (mercifully) gentle forward who's 6'8" - and all muscle. We have six year olds. Girls, boys, women, and men. We have players who are minimally verbal and players with Aperger's who take advanced study classes. We have chair bound players pushed by aides, and players who've played mainstream hockey.
We have gentlemen players and we have ... well, actually, the range there is pretty limited. This is a good group of people; even my excitable #1 son is learning some manners.
There's been a lot of progress. Even players with significant motor disabilities often learn to skate. For my #1 it's a chance to have fun in a setting where he doesn't feel embarrassed or anxious or "other". He can play with neurotypical teams at school and community, but he can never truly be a part of the team. For #2 it's been an unequalled opportunity to learn flexibility, to live with mistakes, and to work as part of a team. Even, this year I think, to learn to lose gracefully.
There are many similar opportunities in Special Olympics, but for us this activity has worked extremely well. While #1 could quality for Special Olympics, he performs at a relatively high athletic level for the sports he likes (he may play SO Golf next year). I don't believe #2 would meet Special Olympics guidelines, yet Special Hockey has been enormously valuable for him.
It's a movement worth supporting.