Connecticut blind hockey allows the visually-impaired to take the ice

The Hartford Braillers and New York Metro Blind Hockey competed against each other in a blind-hockey event, ‘The Battle of the Sound.’

Tom Krosnowski and Robyn Karashik

Mar 9, 2024, 11:29 PM

Updated 37 days ago

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The Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport hosted a game on Saturday between hockey players with a unique skill set.
The Hartford Braillers and New York Metro Blind Hockey competed against each other in a blind-hockey event, ‘The Battle of the Sound.’
“I am the blind leading the blind everywhere except on the ice,” said Josh Schneider, from New York Metro.
“Being on the ice is freeing. I don’t feel like I have limitations. I feel like I can do anything,” said Sietske Morgan, from the Hartford Braillers.
Schneider is 98% blind and describes losing his sight as losing his independence. By the time he was diagnosed, he had already given up playing hockey – his lifelong passion. It wasn’t until after hearing a News 12 New Jersey report on the New York Metro Blind Hockey team that Schneider got back on the ice.
“All I saw was white, and I knew it was hockey. For me, who played hockey in college and had lost his vision for seven years, the next thought was, ‘How did I miss this for so long?’” Schneider said.
Other members of the Hartford Braillers and New York Metro distinctly remember the first time they found out about blind hockey.
“It gave me something back,” said Keith Haley, from the Hartford Braillers. “Our main goal is to continue to grow the sport and get some youth involved, so it shows them there’s something they can do, even if they’re losing their sight.”
“I never, ever thought I’d be playing hockey again,” Morgan said.
Players from both teams spoke with News 12 Connecticut’s Tom Krosnowski about the differences between blind hockey and the standard game they used to play. The puck is significantly larger and loaded with ball bearings so players know where it is at all times.
“If I shake this and then I shake this one, there’s a much more distinctive, much louder sound. Because this [first] one, I could just send the ball bearings around in a circle, but the second this dents, it adds a lot more sound, a lot more acoustics to the puck to allow all of our players to hear it,” Schneider explained.
As per the rules of the leagues, the goalies must be 100% blind.
The Hartford Braillers are Connecticut’s hometown team and feature players from New York, New Jersey and even as far north as Maine. Their ages range between 14 and 61 years old. There’s also plenty of bragging rights up for grabs.
“The Hartford-New York rivalry, you can’t beat that,” Haley said.
“We’re still all friends afterwards, and it’s great being on the bench, you get to help your teammates out,” Morgan said. “We talk a lot about communication on the ice, yelling out jersey colors, letting them know where you are.”
The players say the love of the game provides a sense of community they never thought possible.
“Hockey is for everyone. When you go to the rink and you’re on the ice with people who have a similar disability as you, there’s no greater joy than that,” Haley said.


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