Nickname: “Hollywood Haley"
“So, I’m not really the Hollywood type which is why the nickname is funny. Basically, how it started was that the Hartford Brailers had a few spots on TV here in Connecticut. Fox 61 did two segments on us, and channel 3 did a few segments. They used a lot of my clips in there, and the second time I said, ok, I’ve been on TV, I’ve had my shot, can we try to get other players? I was talking about the game, the differences in blind hockey vs. regular hockey, and they kept pulling my clips. I was like, I don’t want to be in the limelight anymore! The same thing happened with some articles that came out as I was quoted talking about blind hockey, and the jokes started, ‘well, there’s Hollywood Haley again on the front page of this newspaper or that newspaper.’ It was more a joke than anything else, and of course it’s taken on a life of its own and now it’s reached the national team.”
How has life with hockey led you to Team USA?
“When I heard there was going to be a national tryout, I said, well I can’t miss that. Not saying I was going to make the team but I have to at least give it a shot. I booked Chicago, and I didn’t even know it was an invitational at first. When I received the invitation letter, that was exciting in and of itself. So, I went to Chicago, did the tryout. I saw the talent around me, I said, there’s a lot of good blind hockey players here. And younger players. And faster players. I thought I didn’t have a shot at this. But they’re announcing names, and they called my name. I said, wow, kind of crazy. It was like being called to the NHL Draft, because this is the closest thing we’re going to get to the NHL draft”
“Everyone was hugging and laughing like little kids. To overcome what we’ve had to overcome, to get to that point, was a great feeling for everyone. After that, we came into training camp [in July], and I like to say we came in as 18 individuals and we came out a family of 18.”
What does Blind Hockey mean to you?
“I wish I had been playing it all my life. I was diagnosed with glaucoma in my in early 20s, and it got worse in my mid-20s. That’s when the vision really started to go. I had played in a men’s league but the vision just wasn’t there…peripheral loss, I couldn’t really see the puck. I figured hockey was over, until along comes blind hockey and I can play the sport I love again. I was showing a friend of mine my medal from Pittsburgh recently, and she said something really great - ‘how cool is it that the sport you love, and your vision disability, are combined?’ I said, I know, who would have ever thought that this would have ever been something that would have been played? The pre-requisite is that you have to have poor vision to play in these leagues. I just love it. I wish it had started here earlier, I’d have been playing for the last 20 years.”
“Even at 45, that’s one of the main reasons I do it, is for kids that are in the next generation. They’re going to be able to play this sport their whole lives.”
What does being a member of Team USA mean to you?
“The excitement of it all, it just makes me so proud of everyone on the team. When we were in Utica [for training camp] and the national anthem played for the time, what an absolutely amazing feeling. We were all in our USA jerseys on the blue line, some people were shaking, some people felt like they were going to pass out, some people were crying…everyone has a different story, everyone became blind for different reasons and we have had to overcome a lot. But this is something we get back. I get hockey back, and it was something I thought was taken from me 20 years ago.”
“I have the silver medal we won right on my desk and I look at it often. Getting those silver medals in Pittsburgh, what it actually signifies…it doesn’t signify coming in second, it signifies being pioneers of blind hockey. [Teammate] Mark DeFlorio put it well in a text afterward: we DID receive the first ever medals in blind hockey, because they technically handed out the silver medals first.”
“All those thoughts come to mind with just one song, listening to the national anthem and wearing Team USA on your jersey. It’s a proud moment, for me and for everyone else. Everyone was talking about it afterward, ‘yeah, how about that anthem?’ And everyone felt the same way which was cool - you didn’t have to tell the player next to you, they knew. We knew what each of us was feeling at that moment.”
Who is your favorite team or favorite player?
“I’m a Boston Bruins fan, I come from the Boston area so, I like the Red Sox and the Celtics, but Bruins are my #1 passion. Terry O’Reilly for the Bruins, that’s who I watched growing up. He may have been in the penalty box a lot, but his number is retired. Not because he was the best player, or because he was a goal scorer, but because he worked hard. He worked hard when he was on the ice. Similar, that’s the kind of player I am – I’m not the best player, I don’t score a lot of goals, but I’m in a lot of the plays and I play aggressively. Similar type player as me - give it your best each time you’re out there.”
Who is your hockey hero in your life?
“My father. He wasn’t a hockey coach, and hockey wasn’t necessarily his sport, he was more of a football player. But he would leave the restaurant he and my mom owned, and come watch my games. When I played in high school and lived in Connecticut, he would come down to every possible game to see me play. Even when I was a freshman and maybe I wasn’t even going to play a lot. He was there, and I could hear him in the stands, coaching from afar if you will. ‘Two hands on your stick! Keep your stick on the ice!’ And telling me always, try your best. I think that was the most important guidance and advice – everything I always did, he would always be there telling me to give it my best. If you’re going to do it, do it right. The fact that he didn’t miss any of those games, always kept me in check. I know I’m not going to be the best player out there. Even on Team USA, I’m an alternate. But ‘do your best’ – no one can take that from you. I always say that good things come when you work hard, and it pays off. Those are values that my dad instilled in me.”
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|