Ice hockey is considered one of the most difficult sports to play in the world. For these athletes, they do it either completely or partially blind.
For the second straight year, Team USA Blind Hockey is conducting training camp in Utica. Representatives from the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) help the athletes go through rigorous training.
Wednesday marked the beginning of training camp, with a meet and greet at Utica College at night to give the players a chance to meet their future teammates.
Blind hockey is very similar to conventional hockey, but with some minor adjustments. The biggest difference is a larger, slower puck that makes noise so visually impaired players can track it. According to Team USA Hockey, there are other differences such as a smaller net to encourage pucks on the ice and a mandatory pass in the offensive zone to ensure goalies and defense can adjust.
The positions players play is typically dependent on their visual circumstances. Usually, those who are completely blind play goalie and defense while higher sighted players are forwards.
Training camp continues to Sunday and is highlighted by a preseason game Saturday night in Whitestown. There, the USA Blind Hockey Team will play against a team of all-stars compiled by Utica College Pioneers Hockey Head Coach Gary Heenan.
Some of the players on Heenan’s team include himself, Utica Comets Head Coach Trent Cull, former NHL player and New Hartford native Steve Zalewski, and alumni from the UC program.
The game starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Whitestown Community Center & Ice Rink. Tickets are $10 with the proceeds going to Team USA Blind Hockey. Fans will be given the opportunity to meet with the players at the conclusion of the game.