BAYONNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A new hockey league gives visually impaired players a chance to hit the ice.
It looks like any other recreational hockey league — players on skates in a rink, enjoying the game they love.
But if you take a closer look, what you see is considerably more than what they see.
“This league is unique because it’s specifically for blind people,” player Joshua Schneider told TV 10/55’s Scott Rapoport.
Six teams from all over the northeast, 32 players in all, come to a rink in Bayonne, New Jersey, to play a game you might think would be unavailable to them.
But organizers say that kind of thinking would be shortsighted.
“What blind hockey gives the opportunity for people to do is to come out, learn how to ice skate and play in a game that’s very much like traditional hockey,” said Ted Caputo, president of New York Metro Blind Hockey.
Caputo organized the tournament. He says the players range from being totally blind to legally blind. Most of them have 10% vision or less. He says they use a special, larger puck made of metal and filled with ball bearings so the players can hear it and locate it, enabling them to play.
“It’s freeing because whenever you’re out in the community and you’re blind, you can’t do certain things. You feel like you’re different. When you’re out on the ice, you’re free. You can go as fast as you want. The only obstacles in your way are just the other players on the ice and everybody’s wearing pads, so it doesn’t really matter if you run into them,” player Emily Molchan said.
Most players say they don’t consider being visually impaired a handicap. They are skilled skaters and players and happy to be on the ice.
“I learned that you can do anything you put your mind to,” 11-year-old Jacob Memtzov said.
Folks say what it’s all about is having the vision to bring the game to those who want to play and giving them a chance.
Organizers of the event say there are 12 blind ice hockey teams in the United States and about 200 blind players participating on those teams. The age of the players ranges from 11-57.