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Monday, March 16, 2015

Chicago Hornets Sled Hockey to raise awareness, money for players with disabilities

Chicago Hornets General Manager J.J. O'Connor, left, says fundraising sled hockey games help supply equipment and ice time for players with disabilities.
Chicago Hornets General Manager J.J. O'Connor, left, says fundraising sled hockey games help supply equipment and ice time for players with disabilities. 
The Daily Herald, article by Safiya Merchant | March 14, 2015
Sometimes a hockey game is about more than goals and saves.

Sometimes it's about helping others.

That will be the case this afternoon when the Glen Ellyn-based Admirals Hockey Club faces off against the Chicago Hornets, a youth sled hockey team for those with physical disabilities.

The game starts at 3:30 p.m. at Center Ice of DuPage, 1N450 Highland Ave., Glen Ellyn.

The teams will be playing sled hockey, a sport where players race down the ice on sleds.

Besides raising money for the Hornets to continue playing the sport they love, officials said they hope the game leaves a lasting impression on members of the Admirals, who do not have physical disabilities but will be able to see what it's like to play with one for a day.

"I think it's great for a typical able-bodied hockey kid to kind of see what it's like to be disabled for an hour and to experience in a small way what a disabled kid has to go through every day, all day," Hornets co-founder and General Manager J.J. O'Connor said.

A hockey injury left O'Connor with quadriplegia when he was a teenager. After he became chairman for USA Hockey's "disabled section," he helped create the Hornets, which gives kids 20 and younger with physical disabilities the chance to play sled hockey for free.

Some of the money for equipment and ice time comes from fundraising games like this one, O'Connor said, which also give the Hornets a chance to play competitive games near home.

"Without them (fundraisers), we wouldn't have a way to survive," O'Connor said.
At Saturday's game, the Hornets will be playing against boys 13 and 14 years old on the Admirals' bantam AA team.

Paralympic gold medalist and special guest Brody Roybal also will participate.
The Admirals have been raising money to buy equipment for the Hornets, and those efforts will continue throughout the game.

Julie Christman, whose son is on the Admirals, helped spearhead the partnership. She said she'd been looking for ways for kids to recognize how fortunate they are to be able to play a sport they enjoy.

Besides showing the Admirals how it feels to play sled hockey, the game also will demonstrate that those who have disabilities can be great athletes, too.
"No doubt, our team will be able to showcase that even though our players have a disability, they're still fantastic athletes and fantastic hockey players," O'Connor said.
Admirals President Jeff Schoner said he hopes the game will help change his players' perspective on disability.

"After this game, I really hope our players, if they're in a mall or at school or wherever and see a kid in a wheelchair, I hope they view them differently," Schoner said.
O'Connor said the Hornets have never lost to an "able-bodied" team.

"But the able-bodied teams are always happy about losing," he said. "It's the one game probably in the entire year that the team that loses is happy that they lost."

photo: Daily Herald file photo

For more on the Chicago Hornets Sled Hockey, visit: http://chicagohornets.org/

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