Penguins Host Local Sled Hockey Team
The members of the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins, a local sled hockey team, viewed the Pittsburgh Penguins practice and then held a practice of their own at Mellon Arena on Monday morning.
“It gave an identity to my son,” Angie McCoy said. “(It) provided him with the self confidence that, ‘Hey, I might not look like everybody else, but I can compete like anybody else.’”
The kids cheered and hollered as they watched their heroes, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, pass the puck up the ice and score a goal on the Penguins newest team member, Mathieu Garon, during practice. Some of them sat along the glass, or behind the players’ bench, while others viewed the action from their wheelchairs several rows behind the ice. They cherished the unique chance to see their idols play.
“You can see the smiles on the kids faces - they love it,” eight-year sled hockey coach Mark McCoy said. “To be this close to their idols is terrific. It’s going to be such a memorable experience for them on the ice and just getting to see the team practice. They’ll remember this for years to come.”
The kids were simply glowing when they dressed-out in their own gear and waited to get on the ice themselves. Simple shin guards, shoulder pads, gloves and a helmet were transformed into armor and each child was a knight ready for battle. According to Angie McCoy, they call it “Superman Syndrome,” because of the transformation the kids experience when they get out on the ice.
The sport is designed for people with physical disabilities or mental disabilities, but for Mark, the thing that’s great about sled hockey is the way it brings the families together and allows the kids to develop camaraderie.
The Mighty Penguins have been in
“Going away on these tournament trips,” Mark said, “it’s special beyond the sport itself. It really brings these kids together in a way that otherwise, they might not have a chance to do.”
“When I was born with my disability I wanted to play a sport,” Daniel said. “I first started to play t-ball, but I wanted something with a little more action. Sled hockey is just a fast paced game, and with other sports like football and baseball they’re fast once they start going. But in hockey, you’re always moving which is really fun.”
The kids zoomed up and down the Mellon Arena ice, passing the puck through the neutral zone, or battling for possession along the boards. All of the players wore a black or white jersey with the Pittsburgh Penguins logo on it, all except one player who donned a red team
Josh, 24, starting playing with the Mighty Penguins during their first season and he loves the competitiveness of sled hockey. In 2002, he won a gold medal with Team
“It was really cool to come out and play where (Mario) Lemieux played, and where (Jaromir) Jagr played, and now
One youngster on the ice, Nathan, like his hero Crosby, boasts number 87 on his jersey. Nathan just picked up sled hockey 14 months ago when his family moved to Pittsburgh in part, to find more activities for Nathan to get involved in. The 11-year-old carrot top was simply ecstatic to see
“We’re Penguins fans so to come here was a real pleasure and a thrill,” Nathan’s father, Jeff, said. “We really appreciate the opportunity from the Penguins very much, it’s very kind of them to do that.”
While Nathan is still learning the rules of the game, he absolutely loves sled hockey and has picked up the sport rather quickly. He even scored the game-tying goal for his team at their last tournament in Columbus. In true Sidney Crosby fashion, he scored his first goal on a wrap around play from behind the net.
“Yes, it’s really cool when you go fast.” Nathan said. “It’s just so fun, and I get to play a lot, it’s really cool.”
Several Penguins players came out after practice to watch the sled hockey team practice, including Marc-Andre Fleury and Pascal Dupuis. Fleury even tossed his stick to one of the kids at the end of the Penguins’ practice.
“It’s great to see how they can play hockey a little bit differently and their disability doesn’t stop them from playing,” Fleury said. “That shows a lot about their passion for the game.”
The members of the Mighty Penguins have a passion for the sport that is simply unparalleled. It is exactly this passion that is evident when the kids fly up and down the ice.
“It’s a fast paced, hitting sport and you always get that adrenaline rush when something big happens,” goaltender, 18, Dan said. “You live for that moment.”