Special hockey teams from as close by as Simi Valley and San Diego and as far away as Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and British Columbia are getting set to head to Valencia for the 6th annual UCT Winter Hockey Festival taking place Jan. 13-15, 2017.
The teams are made up of individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities and are part of the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) for players with developmental disabilities.
The festival will be held at the Ice Station Valencia and is being sponsored for the sixth year by United Commercial Travelers (UCT), a non-profit membership organization based in Columbus, Ohio, that supports communities and causes across North America.
Festival games will take place on three surfaces; Friday, Jan. 13; Saturday, Jan. 14; and Sunday, Jan. 15. Opening Ceremonies, including an athlete’s parade, a ceremonial face-off with the LA Kings Ice Crew & Mascot Bailey, and a special ASHA Ambassadors/Coaches game, featuring LA Kings Legend Daryl Evans, will take place Friday evening at 6:30pm. Saturday evening features discounted tickets to the LA Kings vs. Winnipeg Jets hockey game at the Staples Center, or FREE admission for the special needs athletes to the Valencia Flyers vs. Long Beach Bombers at the Ice Station Valencia. Sunday evening’s Closing Ceremonies will be held at The Centre inside the Santa Clarita Sports Complex and will include a video presentation from the festival and medal ceremonies.
Dave Chase is ASHA’s Executive Director & President of SNAP Sports, a Valencia-based non-profit organization offering sports-based programming to athletes with special needs. SNAP Sports is the parent organization of the Valencia SNAP Flyers Special Hockey Club and UCT’s local partner for the 2017 winter hockey festival.
According to Chase, special hockey is just that – special. “Skill sets vary according to age and experience, but these players all share the challenge of living with developmental disabilities,” he explained “We’ll see some friendly competition when these players hit the ice, but there will also be a lot of cooperation. Special hockey is unique in that it gives players the chance to develop confidence, social skills and teamwork, which enhances their existence on and off the ice. Athletes with a variety of special needs have found success through special hockey.”
Some of the most common of these special needs are autism, traumatic brain injury, Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome, cerebral palsy and ADD/ADHD. ASHA is a volunteer-driven association created especially to benefit individuals with such disabilities. There are currently 60 ASHA programs in 48 cities throughout the U.S.
UCT is a longtime supporter of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A partnership was formed in January 2010 between UCT and ASHA, and UCT is helping to promote special hockey nationally. To kick off the seventh year of being ASHA’s proud sponsor, UCT will present a $10,000 donation to the organization at this year’s festival, bringing total contributions given to over $100,000.