“Sweet Spot,” by Mike Sugerman
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (WCBS 880) – It might look like a normal workout at the Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow, but most of the players can’t make out the blue line, nor anything else on the ice.
“When you go blind, it’s not like, ‘Oh, well, what about hockey?’” Jim Sadeki says.
But this group of blind or nearly blind people is asking, ‘Why not hockey?’
“I’m 52 years old, and this makes me feel like a kid, you know? It’s restorative to my soul and the body,” another man says.
He can only see limited light after he lost most of his vision to disease at 17. But with a puck the size of a personal pizza that makes noise, he and others make it work.
“Skating has been the one thing that I’ve found freedom, where like I can go as fast as I want, feel that cold air on your face and just move and everybody out there is the same,” Sadeki says.
“Exhilarating. Just being – participating in something that everyone else is able to participate in and it doesn’t matter,” adds Liz Bottner.
You might think it would to a goalie, but Bottner has been blind since birth. Rules are that the goalies must be completely blind.
“You rely on your other senses, of hearing – mainly hearing to know where the puck is,” she says. “And you don’t have to have vision to see where the puck is, because the puck makes noise.”
This session was meant to introduce the sport to the community. For one 8-year-old girl born prematurely with limited sight, it was her first time ever on the ice.
“She’s restricted on doing a lot of activities, so having her be able to do this out on her own, you know I think it definitely builds up her self esteem and her confidence,” family member Toni Ocherta says.
“I loved it,” the girl adds.
Though hockey might not be in the cards in her future, for others, it’s the goal.
Blind hockey started in Canada. It’s been slower to get a foothold in the U.S., the New York area is working on establishing a league of its own.