This is the second installment of our ‘Hockey Strong’ series which will be continued for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. September’s feature is from Anthony Chesrow, member of Team USA.
USA Blind Hockey Brief – Blind hockey changed my life. After leaving my college team, I thought my playing days were over and I was just going to play men’s league. My first skate with the Chicago Blind Blackhawks was life changing. I got to skate with players who have dealt with similar vision challenges that I have dealt with. Some of the players on the team were in high school and I knew that this was an opportunity for me to be a role model and a leader for them. Little did I know that they would be leading me in the right direction, getting me prepared to go back to college, where I ultimately achieved my dream this spring and graduated.
I am also in my second year of being part of Team USA, which has been a dream. This team is a family. There isn’t anything that anyone of us hasn’t gone through that we can’t share with our teammates to help them with whatever they are going through. The coronavirus pandemic has been frustrating because I know we all just want to get out on the ice and be with our hockey family. We as blind hockey players are all part of a tight knit unique community that will only continue to grow.
During the pandemic, I have continued to challenge myself every day to honor my commitment to my teammates – my hockey family. Over the past five months I have graduated college with two degrees, recovered from a second broken collarbone injury, and worked out almost every day in my garage. My average day looks like waking up, taking off my sleep apnea mask, taking a shower and getting ready for training. I then grab the net from the side of my house and put that in the garage, where I set up my resistance chord, my sledgehammer tied to a skate lace, and my yoga mat for push-ups and sit-ups. I honestly take a thousand or so shots and then stick handle. I’ve been training in this garage since I was 14 and it has always been a safe space for me. I get to jam to my music out there and feel at home with my true love – hockey. Goals start in the garage (as noted by fellow Team USA teammate, Blake Steinecke, in the April 2020 newsletter) so I just practice different ways of scoring and stick handling until I feel my forearms will fall off or I open a blister. I was always told I wasn’t going to be good enough or that I was just going to get myself hurt, so I created an animal determined to persevere and my garage was my cage. I enjoy stick handling because it allows me to think creatively and try to keep up with some of the beats to the music I play (if it isn’t Frank Sinatra, then I’m listening to Master of Puppets by My Metallica or anything by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard).
The pandemic is not a time to stop training – we must all push forward. I challenge every blind hockey athlete to work on their stickhandling. Most humbly said, I would consider myself to have elite hands when it comes to our sport of blind hockey. There are countless drills that you can do from home that will help you, including those featured in this stickhandling video I created (with Blake’s help), or those below.
- Around the World: Get into a nice hockey ready position and start with the puck out in front of you. Then stick handle a couple times in front of you, then more to the right then more to the right then to your side then behind you then to your left off to the side then left of center then back in front of you. This will work on your range of motion when you stick handle and your puck control.
- Brick stacking: Stack bricks on top of a piece of wood and make passes to it. If done correctly, the puck should come back to you.
My most important challenge is to work on your mindset. Have a growth mindset and find music you love and stick handle in your garage until your wrists want to fall off.
Above all I want to challenge players from all blind hockey teams, including Team USA, Minnesota Blind Wild, Chicago Blind Blackhawks, and the Washington Blind Hockey Club to become better with the puck. Throw on some of your favorite music and have some fun with it. The goals you score out on the ice will be directly from the practice you’ve done in your garage.