Sports
Blind hockey tournament behind push for sport's recognition

The first ever National Blind Hockey Tournamentwas off to a good start with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Lieutenant Govrnor of Ont., David Onley dropping the first puck at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ont. on Fri. Feb.15/13.

Credits: Dave ThomasToronto Sun/QMI Agency

MARYAM SHAH | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - Richard Holloway was told he couldn’t play hockey as a child because he was blind.

But five years ago, after taking his son skating, he decided to learn anyway.

“Everybody said because I was blind, I couldn’t do it,” Holloway said Friday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, where Courage Canada’s 2013 national Blind Hockey tournament kicked off.

Holloway, 49, is one of the 45 visually impaired players on four teams competing for gold.

The round-robin tournament is the result of one 25-year-old man’s efforts. Mark DeMontis — founder of Courage Canada and a legally blind hockey player himself — hopes to see blind hockey become a paralympic sport.

“There’s a big need in Canada for there to be a national program, an umbrella for Canadians who are blind and visually impaired to play hockey and I figured the only way I can make a difference is if I take action,” DeMontis said.

The ice rink rang out with the sounds of players yelling as they fought over a larger version of a puck — twice the size of the NHL version at 15 cm in diameter and it rattles loudly.

“Blind hockey’s different from regular hockey,” DeMontis said. “It’s got modified rules, a puck that makes noise, and the players are blind and low vision.”

Lt.-Gov. David Onley dropped the puck after the opening ceremony, which included Mayor Rob Ford.

Onley said he’d never seen a blind hockey game before.

“I’ve already noticed some strategies, that is, to try to hold the puck in your stick and not make it rattle so you can gain an advantage around a defending player,” Onley said.

Holloway credits the game for a new lease on life.

“At one time I weighed over 400 pounds, I was a couch potato and I had to change my life,” he said.

Now he runs marathons and he also rode his bike across the country.

“‘Can’t’ is not in my vocabulary,” Holloway said.

The tournament runs until Sunday, when the gold and bronze medal games will be played.

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