Nine special needs hockey programs from four western states and one Canadian province, are heading to Southern California for the 6th Annual SoCal Special Hockey Festival taking place at the Ice Station Valencia on April 27-28, 2019.
Hosting the special event is Special Needs Athletes and Peers (SNAP) Sports, a Valencia-based nonprofit organization offering sports-based programming to athletes with special needs, and the parent organization of the Valencia SNAP Flyers Special Hockey Club.
The SoCal Festival is sanctioned by the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) for players with developmental disabilities. ASHA is a volunteer-driven association created especially to benefit individuals with such disabilities. There are currently over 60 ASHA programs in 48 cities throughout the U.S
“This is the sixth year that our organization has hosted this great event,” said Dave Chase, Executive Director of SNAP Sports. “Teams from this part of the country have far fewer opportunities to participate in festivals like this, which is why this gathering is so important. We at SNAP Sports are so proud to welcome these incredibly courageous athletes to the ONLY special hockey festival west of the Rockies,” Chase continued.
Saturday, April 28
Play begins on Saturday morning (9:00 a.m.) for all divisions, and continues throughout the day. At the conclusion of play on Saturday, all participants will assemble for the Opening Ceremonies featuring an Athletes Parade and a ceremonial Puck Drop. Coaches will get a chance to show off their skills in the Luksha Memorial Game, an annual celebration of Valencia SNAP Flyers Coach Bill Luksha, who played a key role in the development of the host team, before passing away three years ago. Just prior to the Memorial Game, SNAP Sports will recognize the 2019 Luksha Honoree, an an-nual award given to a member of the SNAP Sports family, who exhibits excellence in team commitment, friendly competition and lasting friendships.
New for 2019, the SoCal Special Hockey Festival will celebrate Rita Eagle, Founder of the California Condors. The Pioneer Award will recognize Ms. Eagle for her groundbreaking achievement bringing Special Hockey to the South-ern California area. According to Eagle, “My son and I arrived in California in 2001 from Toronto, where hockey for indi-viduals with special needs was born. It took five years to find a rink in the Los Angeles area that would consider giving such a program a home. Finally, in 2006, the Condors were ready to fly, but only because of all the kids and their families, volunteer coaches and “kid helpers,” donors and supporters who helped make the dream of hockey for individuals with special needs a reality. In 2006, the Condors were the first and only special needs hockey team in all of California. Today, we are still soaring, but we are no longer alone. The SoCal tournament gives testimony to that and celebrates it. It is so heartening to see there all the teams that were spawned by that leap of faith, nearly 13 years ago.”
Sunday, April 29
Play resumes on Sunday morning (9:00 a.m.), with games from all divisions. At the conclusion of the action, athletes, coach-es and their families will be part of the Festival Awards Ceremony which will be held at the Ice Station Valencia, and will feature video highlights from the festival and finish off with medal ceremonies for all the participants.
Chase added, “Special hockey is just that – special. Skill sets vary according to age and experience, but these players all share the same 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 enhance their existence on and off the ice. By shattering any notion of limitations, athletes with a variety of special needs have found incredible personal success through playing hockey.”
There is no cost to attend the Festival, and SNAP Sports will auction off a variety of hockey memorabilia to the highest bidder, with all proceeds helping to offset the cost of the event.
For more information about the SoCal Special Hockey Festival, go to http://snaphockey.org/socalfestival/.
About SNAP Sports
SNAP Sports provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to engage in a variety of sports-based activities. Our athletes often shatter the notion of commonly held limitations, by accepting the challenge of more complex competitive sports. Players gain confidence and poise while becoming better equipped to manage their individual disabilities. Athletes who participate regularly, routinely develop the essential physical and social skills needed to improve their everyday lives. For more information visit www.snaphockey.org. Follow us on social media at facebook.com/snaphockey, instagram.com/snapsportsinc and twitter.com/snapsportsinc.
Created in 2000 for players with developmental disabilities, ASHA gives people of all ages and abilities a chance to learn and grow by playing hockey. For more information visit www.specialhockey.org. Follow special hockey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/specialhockey and Twitter at @specialhockey.