October 22, 2018 – This past month the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the first International Blind Hockey series where the U.S. Blind Hockey team competed against the Canadian National Blind Hockey team during a final three game series. Team USA was successful in bringing home the Silver Medal with the help of three Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey team players, Anthony Chesrow of Carol Stream and brothers Luke and Matthew Miller of Elmhurst.
Chesrow scored two goals during the series and added, “It was an honor to have this opportunity to wear the jersey and represent the United States. Having two of my teammates from Chicago share this experience was amazing.” Luke and Matt Miller played opposite positions, but they did have a few opportunities to be on the same line together. “Playing on the same team with my younger brother Luke,” commented Matthew Miller, “was something special.” Luke Miller, who plays right wing for Team USA also added to the scoresheet with two goals and one assist. Luke highlighted the strength of the Canadian goaltending by stating, “It’s tough to play any game when you face a hot goaltender, but in this championship series we had to work really hard to find the back of the net.” Luke did have the opportunity to share some playing time with Chicago teammate Chesrow on the power play unit.
“Team USA came prepared to win but we also knew that the Canadian National team would not be an easy series as some of the elite players in the game reside in Canada,” said Head Coach and General Manager Mike Svac, who is also a part of the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey coaching staff. He also commented that, “I am very proud of Team USA as the thirteen males and two female players did an outstanding job representing their country. They worked very hard to prepare for this event and they truly came to Pittsburgh to compete.” He also stated, “I am still amazed of the courage these players have to play the sport of ice hockey at such a high level of competition with no or very little vision.”
Blind Hockey is played across USA by athletes who are blind or partially sighted who have approximately 10% vision or less. The sport uses an adapted puck that makes noise and is larger than a traditional puck. The U.S. National team is made up of fifteen players (thirteen male and two females) and coaches from eleven different states, who were selected based on their outstanding performance. The sport has been played in the United States since 2014. After four years of development, USA Hockey now has 7 established Blind Hockey Teams. They named a Team USA in 2018 to compete against the Canadian National team in the world’s first international Blind Hockey series, which took place in Pittsburgh, PA in October.
One of USA Blind Hockey’s goals is to export the sport of blind hockey around the world to create international competition opportunities. Future plans include establishing a Four Nations Cup in 2020, World Championships in 2022, and applying for inclusion in the 2026 Paralympic Games. The organization is well on its way to achieving these goals. Team USA’s next journey is to compete in the Canadian National Blind Hockey Tournament in Toronto and then the USA Disabled Hockey Festival in Tampa, Florida.