Charlie Mitchell's Q&A Bio:
How has your life with hockey led you to Team USA?
Hockey has always been a major part of my life and my identity. I can’t imagine a better way to start a day than getting on the ice at five or six in the morning with the ice still cloaked in a thick bank of fog. I love everything the game embodies—a beautiful blend of grit, camaraderie, finesse, and speed.
I was fortunate to start playing in Pittsburgh in the early nineties when the Penguin’s back-to-back Stanley Cups led to an explosion of youth hockey in the city. I played for various Pittsburgh teams, including the Amateur Penguins, which afforded me the opportunity to travel and play across the Northeast, Midwest, and Ontario. Along the way, I made some of my best childhood memories, including playing defense alongside the future best-man at my wedding. For high school, I played four years of prep hockey at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh. Daily practice at the school’s on-campus rink, squeezing in extra ice-time between classes, and competing against other prep schools helped to hone my skills and deepened my love for the game.
One of the first clues that something was wrong with my vision was when I started having trouble tracking fast moving objects like baseballs and golf balls—and pucks. When I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), I resigned myself to the fact that my days playing hockey—and doing many other things I loved doing—were numbered. All of that changed when a coworker connected me with the Washington Blind Hockey Club and my wife Katie encouraged me to get back on the ice. I skated with the team once and I was hooked.
What does blind hockey mean to you?
Blind hockey has given me a second chance to play the game I love—a chance I never thought I’d have. But more than that, it has inspired me to change my attitude towards my visual impairment. Rather than resigning or limiting myself, blind hockey has empowered me to continue pushing my boundaries and to constantly question my own perceptions of what I can and cannot do as a visually impaired person. Playing blind hockey has also connected me with an incredible peer group who share my love for the game and have inspired and encouraged me to refuse to be limited or defined by my visual impairment.
What does being a member of Team USA mean to you?
Having an opportunity to represent the USA is an incredible honor and privilege. I hope to use this opportunity to inspire younger generations with visual impairments to play hockey and to not let their visual impairment stop them from pursuing their passions.
Favorite Hockey Player/Team:
Being a Pittsburgher, my favorite team is the Penguins. I still have the highlight reel from the Pens’ 1992 Stanley Cup run memorized and am actually pictured in the background of the Pens’ official 2009 Stanley Cup team photo.
Do you have a hockey hero in your life? If so who, and why?
Kevin Brown is a hockey hero to me. Despite not having much hockey experience before he started playing blind hockey and having amongst the lowest residual vision on the team, he continues to persevere in the sport, brings his all both on and off the ice, and serves as a leader and role model for the rest of the team.
My wife Katie and my parents are also big heroes. Katie not only encouraged me to get back on the ice and start playing blind hockey, but has supported me every step of the way, including frequently attending early morning practices with our two little girls in tow and encouraging me to spend extra time at the rink and gym. My parents supported me from the first day I stepped on the ice, enabled me to pursue my passion for the game, and continue to be amongst my biggest fans. Katie and my parents have also supported me nonstop through my diagnosis and vision loss.
My three-year-old daughter, Ellie, is also a big inspiration. She has grown to love the sport and comes to many of the Washington Blind Hockey Club’s practices. She has a great “U-S-A” chant that she has been practicing and recently got her first pair of hockey skates. I am enjoying teaching Ellie the basics and look forward to sharing my love for the game with my newborn daughter, Emma, too.
Finally, the coaching and support staff for both Team USA and the Washington Blind Hockey Club are hockey heroes in my life. Their dedication to growing the sport and the sacrifices that they each make to support the team inspire me to push myself to become a better hockey player and teammate.
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.
|Blind Hockey Player||5||$472|
|Blind Ice Hockey Player||7||$477|
|Doris Donley - GM Team Operations||1||$20|
|Ian Essling - Staff||0||$0|
|Ice Hockey Player||1||$1,086|
|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|
Kyle and Kendal