Ice Hockey UK has given its support to Blind Ice Hockey UK, which will come under the England Ice Hockey umbrella with a new programme set to offer greater opportunities to take part in the sport.
Blind ice hockey is the same exhilarating and competitive sport as ice hockey with only one main difference – all of the players are legally blind.
Players must be classified as eligible in one of the three International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) classifications.
The most significant modification is that the sport features an adapted puck that makes noise and is both bigger and slower than a traditional puck.
Players’ levels of vision range from legally blind – approximately 10% vision or less – to totally blind, with the lowest vision athletes playing defence or in goal.
Blind ice hockey is an excellent spectator sport as it is easily recognisable to the average hockey fan, with minimal rule adaptations to help with gameplay and player safety.
Custom three-foot high nets are also used rather than the traditional four-foot nets, keeping the puck low and near the ice so it can make noise and be tracked aurally.
The sport is currently played competitively in Canada and the USA and there are programmes in Finland, Sweden and the UK.
Watch below to find out more about how the sport works:
In November 2023, Blind Ice Hockey UK were granted funding from the Primary Club James Fund to offer “try ice skating and blind ice hockey” sessions in 10 locations across the UK in a bid to foster participation growth in 2024-25 and beyond.
This funding goes a long way to offering blind and visually-impaired people across the country the opportunity to participate in a new sport and hopefully want to take it up more regularly.
There will be five sessions in 2024 and five in 2025, starting in Edinburgh on 28th January.
Romford (24th February) and Cambridge (18th May) will then follow, with the aim to integrate players into local ice hockey teams, build blind ice hockey teams where there is enough interest and work towards a European blind ice hockey summit in 2025.
The ultimate aim is to build a national team to compete in future international competitions.
Henry Staelens, Chief Executive Officer of Ice Hockey UK, said: “We’re pleased to give our support and backing to this exciting new programme.
“Ice hockey is an exhilarating sport and it’s important to give as many people as possible the chance to play.
“The concept is fantastic and we will use our relationships with federations around the world to give Blind Ice Hockey UK the chance to thrive internationally.”
Duncan Hough, England Ice Hockey Vice-Chair, said: “It is a really exciting time for blind ice hockey in the UK and we are really excited to help support the sport on the next step of its journey.
“As an organisation, we are passionate about making hockey as accessible as possible by removing barriers to participation and promoting accessibility.
“Bringing Blind Ice Hockey UK under the England Ice Hockey umbrella is a natural way of reinforcing our commitment to that – and then helping to develop the international pathway working with IHUK.”
Nathan Tree, Blind Ice Hockey UK Founder and Chairperson, said: “I have been working on building blind ice hockey in the UK for nearly five years now and this is a huge step in the right direction.
“I just want to offer the blind and visually-impaired community a chance to try something different and experience the sport I love.”
To learn more about Blind Ice Hockey UK, please visit their website by clicking here.