Canadians with vision disabilities are lacing up their hockey skates in the Martime provinces.
Canadian Blind Hockey, a charitable organization, makes playing hockey possible for people of all ages with different vision disabilities.
“We play with a larger puck, it’s about 5-and-a-half inches off the top,” explains Kelly Serbu, president of Canadian Blind Hockey. “It’s made out of metal, has ball bearings inside so players and goalies can hear it when you’re on the ice.”
Hockey nets are one foot shorter than traditional nets and a player must take one step first before shooting the puck.
“Before you can score a goal in the offensive zone, you have to complete a pass and once the pass is completed the ref has a whistle that, basically, has an audible that allows the goalie and the rest of the players to know that you can go on the offense and score,” Serbu said.
Serbu knows very well what it feels like to receive a diagnosis that could impact your ability to play Canada’s most beloved game.
“During my Junior A career in Halifax, back in 1990-91, I was having some difficulty seeing when I was here at Saint Mary’s University as a second year university student, and shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with an eye disease and within a few months after that, I was classified as legally blind,” he said.
In 2015, Serbu discovered Blind Hockey and it soon became his mission to promote it to others.
“I still play sighted hockey with friends and in some leagues, but now my passion is to help grow Blind Hockey and, you know, let everyone out there that doesn’t know it exists that it’s there,” he said.
Serbu is one of the top Blind Hockey players in the world. In 2016 and 2017, he won Best Forward at the Canadian National Blind Hockey Tournaments.
Serbu has also led the Canadian National Blind Hockey Team to victory as the captain at both the 2018 and 2019 International Blind Ice Hockey Series against the USA.
Oliver Pye, a goaltender, said, “It’s different with the adaptations, but in a good way because it allows us to play, you know, to be able to hear the puck, track it, follow it, all that kind of thing.”
Serbu wants to spread the awareness of Blind Hockey.
“We encourage everyone to pass the word if you know someone who has a child or an adult that is visually impaired or partially sighted blind, let them know that we exist,” he said.