How has life with hockey led you to Team USA?
“I started playing hockey when I was 5…I can vividly remember getting learn to skate handouts and taking it home to my parents saying, I want to do this. I came from a baseball family, and nobody in my family had ever been even remotely interested in hockey, except my sister who rollerskated.”
“Leading up to Team USA and blind hockey, it was a couple of emails and a random phone call from my mom that got me involved in blind hockey. My mom called me in February asking if I’d ever followed up about blind hockey, because she had read an article a few years ago about it. I did some googling and I found Kevin Shanley’s name, reached out to him. He got back to me and he said, ‘hey thanks for sharing your story, the best way to get involved is to play. We have tryouts for the first ever national team in April, we’d love for you to come out and you’d be welcome to try out for the team. The downside is the deadline to register is tomorrow.’”
“I went home, talked to my wife about it and she was 100% onboard. The rest is kind of history.”
What does Blind Hockey mean to you?
“Being able to be on the ice means so much, because you never realize how much you miss it until you think you’re done with something that was such a big part of your life.”
“I lost my vision when I was 15, but I played 4 years of high school hockey and a year of club hockey. I like that I’m still able to play sighted hockey, but being able to play with Team USA really sheds some light on how many things I never realized that my vision affects. I always looked at my lost vision as something I just deal with on a daily basis because I’ve done it for 16 years. I never really think of it as affecting me that much, especially when I’m on the ice, because I’m always moving and so are my eyes, so I don’t really have time to focus on anything and hit my blind spot. It never really hit me before how many times I lose the puck on the ice. It’s amazing how much I lose the puck in sighted hockey compared to blind hockey.”
What does being a member of Team USA mean to you?
“It wasn’t the same as when my son was born…but it was pretty close to that level of excitement. Really just pure joy to hear my name; I’m sure I had the biggest cheesy smile on my face when I walked up there. It really is the most surreal feeling that I’ve had in a long time, other than my son being born, to hear your name called for something like that.”
“Growing up, unless you’re a really level-headed kid, and I don’t know too many of them, if you’re playing a sport and you’re passionate about it you have those dreams and thoughts about taking it as far as you can take it. Playing that sport as a profession, and eventually representing your country…9, 10, 11, 12 years old. You really think about, the very small possibly at the time, but there’s that small percentage that you could end up being a professional hockey player. As you get older, you become more realistic and you realize that you’re not going to make it to the NHL, and if you don’t do that, you’re not going to play for Team USA. It hits you even harder once you lose your vision at 15, but you’re still going to play hockey and accomplish all the dreams you can.”
“Then you get a random phone call from your mom and from Kevin Shanley, saying, hey you have an opportunity to represent Team USA, in a sport that you love. It really is a dream come true to put that jersey on. Every time you put it on, you think of the Herb Brooks quote, ‘the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the name on the back.’”
Who is your hockey hero in your life?
“My mom and my dad. My dad passed away 3 years ago, but my mom has been incredibly supportive. She came to Chicago with us, she was in Pittsburgh with us, she would have gone to Utica [training camp] with us until I told her she’d never be able to see me, so she didn’t come to New York. You talk about the true definition of a hockey mom, and that would be mine.”
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|
Kent & Lindsay McNeil