Carolina Hurricanes help blind athletes learn to play hockey

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Taking the ice for the first time is challenging, no matter your age.

“Hockey is not the easiest thing to do,” said Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordal Staal. “Skating in general for any person is hard. “

“I wish he could actually hear me because I’m sitting there going yes, yes, I can’t believe you’re actually doing this,” said Allison Morgan, the mother of one of the athletes.

These young hockey players have even inspired Jordan Staal. “You know to watch these kids just cruise around and do what they’re doing it definitely cool and inspiring,” he said.

The United State Blind Hockey Federation and the Morehead School for the Blind teamed up with the Carolina Hurricanes to help get kids on the ice.

“The three things I asked them to do out there are number one try as hard as they can out there,” said Craig Fitzpatrick, a United States blind hockey player. “Number two, get up every time they fall and number three show everybody that they can do something that they didn’t know they were capable of doing including themselves.”

Fitzpatrick is helping show the blind athletes they too can play hockey.

“I’m just really appreciative that there’s people out there…organizations out there that are doing things like this,” said Morgan.

Morgan’s 9-year-old son, Elijah, was recently diagnosed with Juvenile Batten disease.
“We thought it was just going to be a vision issue but it turns out there’s a lot more involved with it,” she said. “Mobility is going to decline so that’s why I was really excited about going out here and doing this because I don’t know how long he will be able to be physically active.”

“The fortitude and just the mental strength it takes to get out here is unmeasurable,” said Joseph Gray.

Gray, a track and field Paralympian, has always wanted to play hockey.

“My Dad put me in a camp just because he knew I wanted to play so bad,” he said. “Once I went to the camp I realized that it wasn’t a sport I was going to be able to play due to when the puck would leave my stick it would get lost.”

Blind hockey is played with an adapted puck that makes noise and is bigger than a tradition puck so that even without sight, players can find it.

“To actually come out here on the ice, have a stick and a puck that I can hit and score a goal, I mean I’ll never forget this,” said Gray.

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