Blind hockey player hopes sport can grow to Paralympics

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When Simon Richard laces up his skates and takes the ice for Canada’s blind hockey team, he hopes more countries will be inspired to invest in the sport. 

Canadian Blind Hockey announced the first half of its national team roster on Dec. 14. It will decide which other players to add to the team at the Canadian National Blind Hockey Tournament from March 22-24 in Toronto.

“It’s always an honour to represent Canada for sure,” said Richard, of Dieppe, N.B. “You dream of it as a kid, of course, and you try to play the best you can. And then somehow an opportunity comes to you, and obviously you’re going to take it.”

Luca DeMontis, the national team’s general manager, said in a press release: “We’re excited to work with this great group of players who are role models in the sport of blind hockey.”

For Richard, the tournament in Toronto will help him prepare. He is already on the roster that will go to the 2024 International Blind Ice Hockey Series in St. Louis in April. There, Canada will try to defend its title against the U.S.

Richard says the U.S. and Canada are the only countries with national teams. But he says the sport seems to be catching on. 

“It’ll be a good little stretch of hockey there to promote the game and obviously try to play the best hockey we can,” said Richard. 

LISTEN | Simon Richard make’s Canada’s national blind hockey team 

Shift – NB9:18Blind hockey

Adaptations

Blind hockey has a few adaptations.

The puck is three times bigger than a regular puck, and it has ball bearings inside that allow players to hear it. Players are also blindfolded, so if they do have some sight, everyone is on an equal footing.

The nets are also smaller. To score, the offence is required to make at least one pass before shooting. There is also no hitting allowed. 

Richard says it requires a lot of focus, especially in an arena with cheering fans. 

Canada will play the United States in April. (Simon Richard)

“It’s a very unique experience, that’s for sure, because you’re trying to track the puck and trying to hear your teammates,” said Richard. 

“Anybody that plays hockey at a high level, we all know that communication is a big thing on the ice. And if you can’t hear yourself, it’s a big problem.”

Paralympic aspirations

It’s not his first time representing Canada. Among other accomplishments, he won a bronze medal at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto in goalball. 

Richard has also won two national championships playing for Nova Scotia. He says there are a handful of players who started in goalball and moved to hockey, and that experience helps him on the ice. 

“It’s a skill, I guess, that we kind of get used to tracking whether it’s a ball or a puck on the ice or in the gym,” said Richard.

“Communication is a huge thing, too. So, if you play both sports, you’re definitely having the same type of tools, or same type of skill that makes it very useful to have in both sports.”

A group of people playing goalball.
Richard has also had success playing goalball. (CBC News)

Richard hopes the popularity of the sport can continue to grow, and that he can compete on the biggest stage possible some day. 

“With these series, we’ve had quite a bit of interest from other countries wanting to start programs and then … help the growth of the game in their own countries. So, that’s been a real big success on the international stage,” said Richard. 

“We hope that the game will keep growing and make its way to the Paralympic Games eventually. So, that’s the end goal for the sport.”



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