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Respect

For the Love of the Game

By Mitchell Machtinger, 10/12/18, 12:00PM EDT

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This team is making a lot of noise in Riverside

A tournament in Windsor two years ago brought a special idea to Doug Rivard.

There was a team on the ice that caught his attention, a group of 12 to 25 year olds that were playing for the love of the game just like everyone else. These teammates all had different disabilities but quickly fell in love with the sport. On his way home he began to brainstorm ideas with other community leaders on how to keep these players involved in hockey. Since then, they’ve started a team in the Riverside area and have been planning on expanding, getting volunteers and letting players know about the program.

For now, the group practices once a week with two to three games a month. The team has been reaching out to similar organizations in Detroit to arrange future games and are registered for two tournaments this season as well.

"There’s a big community down here. A lot of them play baseball and basketball together... If one says to the other, ‘I can do it, you can do it too’ then we get a little momentum. We’ve got to get on the ice and they’ve got to see how much fun it is."

The Rangers are highlighting the importance of Long Term People Development. Kids play the game because they love it and because it is fun. The skills developed on the ice build a foundation of confidence, pride, focus and responsibility that all participants can benefit from. The encouraging environment is thanks to the countless volunteers that help players grow as people.

Rivard, the Director of Equipment for Riverside Minor Hockey, says the response from the community has been overwhelming with many volunteers wanting to get involved. Interest in the program continues to rise as the word of mouth grows in the area. Players and parents are excited to get started – one player loved last year’s program so much that he took up figure skating until it was time for puck drop again. Another player on the team who is partially blind found a similar program to participate in until this group got going this season.

Organizations like Autism Ontario, the Windsor Down Syndrome Association and the local chapter of the Special Olympics have all helped to spread the word.

“There’s no ice hockey program here at all for kids to play, especially at that age group,” said Rivard. “We’ve had to tell them that it’s available and that’s where we’ve got the majority of our registrants.”

The players come onto the team with a variety of skill levels. Some are returning teammates, already participating for the last two seasons. Others know how to skate and are familiar with the rules of the game. Then there are some who are going on the ice for the first time. Rivard and his team work with the skill level of each player to make sure that everyone can take part and have an enjoyable experience.

“There’s a big community down here. A lot of them play baseball and basketball together through Special Olympics,” said Rivard. “If one says to the other, ‘I can do it, you can do it too’ then we get a little momentum. We’ve got to get on the ice and they’ve got to see how much fun it is.”


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mitchell Machtinger is the Communications Coordinator at the OMHA. He's worked with various sport organizations and is an avid fan of all sports.

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