Imagine for a minute, playing hockey with an empty tin can rather than a puck. Not only would you have to replace it about 8 times per game since it would get dented so easily, but the trajectory of the “puck” would also be completely unpredictable. Now, imagine doing that with your eyes closed... it would be rather challenging don’t you think? This is what the visually impaired hockey team, the Hiboux de Montréal, have to deal with every time they play.
Blind hockey has existed in Canada for over three decades, however with no central organizing body, the teams have had very little interaction. So each team developed their own set of rules and created different versions of adapted pucks. Consequently, it became nearly impossible to play with one another, causing many blind hockey programs to shut down. This led to very little progress being made and a threat of making this sport tragically disappear.
However, with the sport in danger of disappearing, a glimmer of hope appeared when Courage Canada organized a friendly game between the Hiboux de Montréal and the Toronto Ice Owls. As predicted, the puck was a central issue during the tournament, since both teams were accustomed to playing with something different. Following this tournament, the Hiboux de Montréal, in collaboration with researchers and students at the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQÀM), began developing a sound-emitting hockey puck that could be used by blind hockey teams across Canada and abroad.
Additionally, after one year of research it is still very difficult to organize games between various provincial teams, and and yet unlike sledge hockey, the sport is still not officially recognized by the International Paralympic committee. The Hiboux are just one of many “blind” hockey teams that have been playing in Canada for the past 40 years. Furthermore, not every player is legally blind; each member has a visual impairment that can vary in severity.
One of the main issues is that teams across the country are all using their own creative adaptations of a puck. The Hiboux de Montréal for example play with a tin can that is painted black. The tin can “puck” poses two problems: it quickly becomes deformed when it gets hit, or hits the ice, and its trajectory is unpredictable. For 40 years there has been no standardized puck for the blind. This has made uniformity of the game rather difficult . As a solution to the problem each team has created their own adapted “puck.” In the case of the Hiboux de Montréal, a 48 oz. tin can that has been painted black, serves as the puck, and must be replaced roughly 8 times throughout the game.
(Picture from the Journal de Montreal)
Once uniformity can be achieved there can be a set league created so as to unify al blind hockey teams in Canada. This competitive creation would stimulate demand for the sport from a portion of society and invariably lead to a greater degree of research and innovation for the sport. This idea of creating a league is one that has already been voiced by Les Hiboux De Montreal. One of the Hiboux players, Francois Beauregard has far greater ambitions he said "We're looking to standardize the object because if we have a standardized object then we can have ambitions to become [a Paralympic sport]”.
The creation of a puck is the first step in changing the game drastically for blind hockey players. With a set of uniform tools the chances of creating a league is made easier and ever more likely. MAKEACHAMP is once again at the forefront of this cutting edge development and provides a solution to a much needed expansion of Blind Hockey in Canada.
Here is the link to the Hiboux Campaign page: https://makeachamp.com/hiboux/22140
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