More than 1,000 athletes representing more than 100 teams from dozens of states recently converged on Wesley Chapel, testing their mettle in the world’s largest indoor disabled ice sporting event.
AdventHealth Center Ice played host to the 15th annual USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival, marking the second straight year the event has called home the multi-rink Wesley Chapel hockey complex.
The festival took place the last weekend in March and first weekend in April.
It featured divisions for players who are wounded military veterans, blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, and for special needs such as Down syndrome and autism. The festival concluded with the adult sled hockey national championship.
In total, 14 programs were crowned champions within the sled and warrior hockey disciplines, including the Chicago Blackhawks Warriors capturing the sled championship title.
The mission of the festival is to provide fun and exciting games, and promote and expand disabled hockey throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the event kicked off with a Friday night welcome social for participants, and a friendly game between the Tampa Bay Lightning Alumni team and the National Standing/Amputee team.
The Lightning Alumni team featured hockey Hall of Famer and 2004 Stanley Cup team captain Dave Andreychuk, alongside other well-known former Bolts players, including Brian Bradley, Jassen Cullimore and Stan Neckar.
Attendees were welcomed to the event by Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, along with Andreychuk, USA Hockey President Jim Smith and USA Hockey Disabled Section Chair J.J. O’ Connor.
Moore later dropped the festival’s ceremonial puck in front of Andreychuk and David Levesque, captain of the National Standing/Amputee team.
“Pasco County is Florida’s Sports Coast, and we are thrilled to be the first in the state to host the Disabled Hockey Festival,” Moore said at the event. “I am honored to participate in an event that shows anybody can participate and be included. I thank USA Hockey for their commitment to the disabled community and coming to Wesley Chapel.”
Published May 01, 2019