USA Blind Hockey Brief ‘Hockey Strong’ Series: Nick Kalyan, Team USA

This is the 10th installment of our ‘Hockey Strong’ series. This month’s feature is from Nick Kalyan, member US Blind Hockey Team.


There are many hurdles in life, with or without vision impairment. Being visually impaired is just one of those hurdles.  Once you learn proper hurdling technique though, it becomes much easier to get over the hurdles.  Technique, discipline, confidence, willpower, self-esteem and patience are some of the many lifelong traits that we must all continuously strive to perfect to overcome those hurdles.

Pictured: Nick Kalyan in his US Blind Hockey Team roster photo.

Being ‘Hockey Strong’ to me means simply being your best self for yourself, your family, your community and country, and for your team. 

About two years ago, I was given the grand honor of representing our country and the sport of blind hockey when I was selected for the US Blind Hockey Team.  I can say without a doubt that this has been the most life-changing juncture for me, especially since I had given up hope of playing competitive hockey about fifteen years ago (the only sport I can truly say I love!).  Hockey IS for everyone, and being Hockey Strong is a way of life.

Like many kids, I was exposed to all different types of sports.  Everything from soccer and football, to mountain biking, skiing/snowboarding and skateboarding.  Of course one was above all: hockey.  It wasn’t just the speed, the wicked shots or the hitting, but the atmosphere, and intensity of the game, and above that, the community.  Ironically, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) almost as early as I started playing puck.  And at the same age of about seven, I picked up the guitar, which has become another lifelong love.  From there on, life became rattled with ultimatums and difficult decisions, some good, some bad.  But is that not part of the thrill of life? You betcha! 

As the hits became harder and the puck became fainter, my reality became clearer.  It would be music that would keep me focused and strong through another chapter.  Something I have learned is whatever moves you, let it keep moving you!  It is the successes in life that should give you satisfaction and the struggle that should keep you striving for success.  Graduating college was another hurdle that I got over to keep me pushing toward success.

Now almost 30, the successes seem to be almost sweeter, but the struggles will always remain.  The future is scary, but I believe visually impaired people are better at dealing with it because we already cannot see what is coming. 

There are many things to keep us Hockey Strong – some learned, some that can’t be taught – including not succumbing to temptation, keeping focused and organized, and without question, fitness.  Although music is a driving force in my life, it’s no surprise that four and a half years of music school caused me to slip in the fitness department.  These days, fitness is everything to me, and I think it should be important in everyone’s life.  It helps you feel good, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from those more senior than me, “Treat yourself good now and your body will thank you later.”  It’s a key component to being your best self.

While I can’t emphasize enough how important fitness is to being Hockey Strong, the mental aspects are just as important.  Confronting stereotypes and misconceptions and extinguishing them by succeeding.  Turn frustration into fuel, and keep composure.  Stay balanced in all ways. Own cool shades. And keep the passion. 

These days I work as the lead maintenance for a double sheet ice rink facility.  You could say I am quite the rink rat.  If I’m not driving right hand turns at eight miles per hour on a Zamboni or getting greasy in the engine room, I’m skating or doing Bulgarian squats while holding oil buckets and shoulder raises with pipe wrenches.  Just a couple of the many things I do to keep being my best self and staying Hockey Strong.

In conclusion, the hurdles will keep coming on the icy track of life; your technique has only one choice, to keep up.  Find the will, hold tight to your community, keep the passion, and always stay Hockey Strong. 



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