How has life with hockey led you to Team USA?
“I have been legally blind since the age of 7, due to cone/rod dystrophy, a degenerative genetic eye disorder. Now 46, my disease has progressed leaving me blind, with simply light perceptions and what I like to define as a kaleidoscope of shadows. Although I am physically blind, I see life clearly. Life is full of challenges and new obstacles to overcome for all of us. My philosophy is that I am not afraid to fail, I am afraid not to try! So each day, I awake to new opportunities to explore and challenges to overcome / try.”
“I’ve been a member of the United States Association of Blind Athletes, competed in some things over time. So I’ve stayed current on different things in that area. I saw a communication about a try blind hockey event in Washington D.C. Could have been anywhere in the country, but it was 4 miles from my house. First night, we’re just going to skate around a bit and try that. Granted, I can’t see my feet anymore, it’s just a kaleidoscope of shadows. So, I played with the blind puck a bit; there were lots of people there, 50 plus people, and it inspired me. It reminded me the importance of don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try. I have to make sure I maintain that philosophy. I went there and had a good time, because it was exciting, weird, different. I talked to Matt Morrow who was there, and he told me to come back the next day and join the Washington Wheelers. I showed up the next day at 6 am and I haven’t quit since. It has been an absolute exhilaration. I came to every practice I could make ever since. Members of my community have been helping out, they said, alright, we’ll rotate – because everyone wanted to make sure I could make practice at 6 am. Really a community-based activity, and this was from players and their families that I had coached, wanting to help out Coach Brown.”
What does Blind Hockey mean to you?
“It means motivation, it means inspiration. Adrenaline. I thought I got rid of adrenaline when I was a kid but it’s great! It gives me something to look forward to, it’s just pure excitement. It gives me this opportunity to continue to try, to compete at that high level – it’s something to strive for, to be more effective as a player, because it impacts the team. It creates that motivation to become better not for myself, but for the team. I don’t want to let my teammates down – and as long as I give them 100%, that’s all I can ask. And whether that’s a result on the ice, or in the locker room, or picking someone up who had some confidence issues. It reminds me that there are challenges, but hockey has become a reminder of perseverance. Obstacles are just new challenges to overcome.”
What does being a member of Team USA mean to you?
“I’ve been a member of Team USA in other sports before, but for me, this time it is different, because I feel like I have a different role. I see this in a different way than I see in the past. I see the youth, I see the excitement, but I also see an opportunity to not necessarily be a leader on the ice, but to identify areas to succeed on and off the ice. I see a different kind of opportunity than I saw before; before was simply the sport, but now I see more of the broader opportunity."
"Being the first Team USA Blind Hockey team, that’s exciting. The first time being on the ice, to be part of that starting lineup, probably meant more to me that carrying the Olympic torch. And I don’t know why, because that was a pretty special experience, but to be on the ice at 46 years old and to overcome some of the challenges and develop these new relationships is amazing. One of the differences is I had an opportunity for my kids to see it. So I have maybe a greater respect for what it takes than when I was younger. When you’re younger, you think you’re invincible. Now I know I’m pretty ‘vincible.’ It’s all just awe-inspiring. I look at it as another story to use to let other people know they can overcome. Whether you are a member of the national team or just learning to skate across the ice the first time, it’s the journey that’s important.”
Who is your favorite team or favorite player?
“Dominik Hasek, goalie for the Sabres. As far as a team, I always liked the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins, and the Capitals. So, I’ve had a pretty good run.”
Who is your hockey hero in your life?
"My wife, Eileen, sons, Jack and Henry, and parents, Herb and Lea, are the foundation of my success, support and inspiration. The Washington Wheelers as well – the collective group. There’s been a rotation What’s inspired me is the support of the community here from the Washington Wheelers. Every single person has had a role in shaping my growth, excitement, and opportunity. I would definitely say Coach Nick Albicocco is a big part of it; we share a lot in common, kind of a fun connection as he went to the same elementary school as my wife. Everyone who is involved is engaged. We do some adaptive skating here; we have some kids with disabilities or blindness who come out to skate and just watching that enjoyment for them, to see how their goal is to be on the national team. What do we have to do to get there? They inspire me, through their perseverance. I’m inspired more by them than anyone in the NHL. It makes me want it more.”
Help Support USA Blind Hockey’s Journey to the Paralympics.
Fresh off an exciting inaugural year, Team USA Blind Hockey Team is skating right into a brand new season! In just a year, Team USA has gone from tryouts full-fledged international team. Following our training camp last year, Team USA faced off against Canada in the FIRST-EVER international competition. After that series in Pittsburgh in October, Team USA ventured north of the border to take on Canada in Toronto.
This tremendous growth wouldn't be possible without out an amazing level of support from our fans, friends and family!
As we continue to build up the sport of blind hockey in the United States, we need YOUR help to reach our fundraising goal for operating expenses for the team. Our players and coaches have been putting it all on the ice to build this team so quickly, and after one round of competitive play against Canada, they are hungry to do battle again.
Your support will give these blind hockey athletes the opportunity to participate and compete in these events. All donations will go directly to the team to help with player transportation, equipment, custom blind hockey pucks, and all the other costs of starting a brand-new team. Let’s help these athletes flourish, and show them that they have our support as we grow the sport of Blind Hockey.
The sport of blind hockey has tripled in size since when it was first implemented at the USA Hockey Disabled Festival in 2016 and we’re incredibly proud of our first Team USA for blind hockey.
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Groups and individuals raising money for the same goal.
|Dave Svac - Asst. Coach||0||$0|
|Doris Donley - GM Team Operations||1||$20|
|Ian Essling - Staff||0||$0|
|Kline Donley - Asst. Coach||1||$200|
|Malisa Komalarajun - Staff||2||$33|
|Mike Svac - Head Coach/GM Hockey Operations||0||$0|
|Nick Albicocco - Asst. Coach||0||$0|
Curt and Monti Board