Bill is an IT Systems Engineer/Administrator who plays for the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey Team. He has been playing Blind Hockey since 2015. Bill was featured in the September 2020 issue of the USA Blind Hockey Brief.
Q: When did you first get involved in blind hockey and how did you learn about the sport?
A: I first got involved with Blind Hockey in the fall of 2015. A friend and teammate on my baseball team insisted I come to a tryout, and at his request I did. The first time I ever put on a pair of skates was at a Try Blind Hockey event in Aurora, IL after meeting Amy Lapoe.
Q: If you are comfortable sharing, can you please provide background about your visual impairment (e.g., the nature of your condition, diagnosis, etc.) and how it has impacted your life more generally?
A: I was born with a genetic condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. As a child, the only real visual impact was night blindness. As I got older, the condition’s severity worsened to where I could no longer play sports sighted. It caused me to stop playing baseball as a starting pitcher due to my inability to see the ball. It also made it where I could no longer use a computer without accessibility tools and software. Now, my vision is all but useless, with only the ability to see light and shadows even with correction. Because of how the macula of my eye is damaged, I have no peripheral vision, depth perception, or ability to see a complete image. It’s like trying to look through blurry swiss cheese.
Q: What other blind sports are you involved in and what are your favorite aspects of each sport?
A: I play as a center fielder for the Chicago Comets Beep Baseball team. Being that baseball was my first passion, just getting out on to the field with a bat in my hand and hearing the crack of the ball being smashed into the deep parts of the outfield is very gratifying. I love the camaraderie and the competition. It’s almost euphoric for me. I also study and teach martial arts, in particular, Tae-kwon-do, and Hapkido. It was very interesting to learn a combat art without having eyesight, and was an invigorating challenge that I am very proud to have taken and succeeded in.
Q: What does blind hockey mean to you?
This is hard to quantify in words, being that blind hockey was a secondary sport for me. Having a high degree of difficulty, it was a challenge that I at first wasn’t sure I could tackle. It has given me greater validation that despite the challenge for me, with work and dedication, it is a sport I can be proud to play and grateful to have as a means of physical outlet, especially in the winter. It provides me with confidence, encouragement, and a good physical and mental challenge.
Q: What is your favorite blind hockey moment/memory?
A: My favorite moment was actually not on the ice itself, at least not initially. Coach Mike Svac took notice of my athletic ability and will to perform well, and decided that halfway through my second year, it would be prudent to try me out as a goalie. With less than two months of experience, I was invited to be evaluated for the US National Team, a team which I still strive to reach a roster spot on to this day. During the evaluation, and being in my first real games at the Annual Hockey Disabled Festival in Chicago, I was able to perform my duties as a goalie, and in my first go around, not allow a single goal in the first real game I ever played in. It is something I will always be proud of.