Toronto’s Ice Owls—a team mostly made up of visually impaired or blind players—square off against the Toronto Police’s 55-Division hockey team.
Playing hockey with impaired vision is hard enough. Playing against a crew of tough-guy cops is something else entirely. But last Saturday at the Don Montgomery Arena, Toronto’s Ice Owls—a team mostly made up of visually impaired or blind players—went up against the Toronto Police’s 55-Division hockey team.
Randy Nelson is a legally blind Ice Owls defenceman. “I played hockey when I was younger, as a teen, but I could never keep up with the sighted kids,” he said. “But a few years ago, I began playing with the Ice Owls, and the guys have become really close.”
The team plays with a few rules adapted to suit players with little or no vision: The puck is a hollowed-out plastic disc about five inches in diameter, filled
with piano pins, which make a rattling sound. The Ice Owls’ goalies are usually totally blind, defenceman are blind or have low vision and some forwards are sighted. Ice Owls goalie Joey Cabral relies completely on his hearing to identify the puck.
The 50-odd spectators at Saturday’s charity match got a look at how the Ice Owls play together, as some players were guided to specific parts of the rink and then relied on partial vision, memory and spatial reasoning to find their way.
Suited up, Nelson looked as big as an NHL enforcer, and guarded the crease accordingly, while Cabral persistently taunted the police. The cops’ goalie, in turn, was pretty relaxed in his crease—until the Ice Owls’ (sighted) young guns scored two goals in the last five minutes. The Owls won 5-4.