Stars On Ice

Special Hockey Set To Step Into The Spotlight At Second Annual Event

In the eyes of Alex DePalma, USA Hockey’s Atlantic District Disabled Hockey Representative, every player involved in special hockey is a rock star, so he wants to see to it that each of them will have their very own “rock star moment when they compete at the 2nd annual USA Hockey Special Hockey Classic.

The three-day event will take place from Nov. 8-10 at the Ice Vault Arena in Wayne, N.J., and will feature USA Hockey members with a wide range of cognitive and developmental disabilities looking to putting their hockey skills on display.

The Brick Hockey Club, which was instrumental in starting and supporting the Brick Stars special hockey team, is helping to host the event as part of its 50th anniversary season. 

This is more than a one-time event for local youth players who volunteer their time during the season to assist with the special hockey program.

“Our kids are great,” DePalma said. “They can’t wait to get on the ice with these special hockey kids and you can tell that they’re upset if they can’t be out there for one reason or another.”

Special hockey is one of six disabled disciplines that fall under the auspices of USA Hockey’s disabled section, which is chaired by J.J. O’Connor.

Over the years USA Hockey has proudly supported programs and teams that cater to players with special needs players. Special hockey is one of the fastest growing disciplines with across the United States, with programs having been established in over 50 cities.

Special hockey has been a marquee event since the inaugural USA Hockey’s annual Disabled Hockey Festival in 2006, but it wasn’t until last year that the division spearheaded its own event at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.

Approximately 16 teams from across North America – New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario, to name a few – will participate in four games apiece. Players from the USA Warriors and special hockey programs will also face off in an exhibition game,

“It’s a fun weekend where they celebrate their abilities,” said Amy LaPoe, a USA Hockey’s Special Hockey representative from Illinois. “You don’t focus on what they can’t do, you focus on what they can do.”

DePalma and the Brick Stars have taken the Classic to new levels in its second year. In addition to the on-ice activities, several N.J. Devils alumni will be in attendance along with the NHL team’s mascot. New Jersey native Jack Wallace of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team will also be on hand to sign autographs and show off his gold medal from the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

Thanks to the generosity of Bobby Reiss and his family, which owns the Ice Vault Rink, there will be two heated tents onsite with live music and food and refreshments for all participants. To top off the weekend, each player will receive a personalized 1980 Olympic USA Hockey jersey.

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