Blind Hockey is the same exhilarating, fast-paced sport as Ice Hockey with only one main difference – all of the players are legally blind. Players must be classified as eligible in one of the three International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) classifications.
The most significant modification is that the sport features an adapted puck that makes noise and is both bigger in size and heavier in weight than a traditional hockey puck which will slow down the pucks while sliding on the ice allowing those players with less vision or no vision an opportunity to track the puck. Players’ levels of vision range from legally blind – approximately 10% vision or less – to totally blind. Blind Hockey is an excellent spectator sport as it is easily recognizable to the average hockey fan, with minimal rule adaptations to help with gameplay and player safety.
- Custom 3 foot high nets are used rather than the traditional 4 foot nets to keep the puck low and near the ice so it can make noise and be tracked aurally.
- Teams must complete one pass prior to being able to score in the attacking half of the rink – this provides both the low vision defense and the goalie an extra opportunity to track the puck.
- The game is played with standard IIHF safety protocols including no-touch icing, and crease violations to ensure utmost player safety.
- All players must wear full protective gear including face mask.
The adapted puck used in Blind Ice Hockey makes noise and is both bigger and heavier than a traditional puck. The large size and slower speed help visually impaired players see the puck, while the noise allows low vision or no vision players to track it.
Blind Hockey Pucks are made of hollow steel and contain 8 ball-bearings. The pucks are made by hand by welding together a steel band around 2 circular discs, filled with ball bearings, then painted black. A Blind Ice Hockey puck generally lasts for only about two highly competitive games as it becomes dented when hitting the posts, skates, sticks and the boards.
- Material: 22 gauge steel
- Diameter: 5 ½ inches / 14 centimeters
- Height: 1 7/8 inches / 4.8 cm
- Weight: 7.8 oz/ 220g
- Color: Black
- Contents: 8 ball bearings
The sport of Blind Hockey is governed in the United States by USA Hockey. Currently there are two major annual competitions for the sport of Blind Hockey in the United States: the USA Hockey – Blind Hockey Summit which takes place in the fall, and the USA Hockey Disabled Festival – Blind Hockey Division which takes place in the spring. There are currently 17 Blind Hockey programs established in the United States and all programs include learn to skate players through advanced level in both hockey skills and playing the game. Blind hockey programs in the US includes:
- Anaheim Blind Hockey
- Boston Blind Hockey
- Carolina Hurricanes Blind Hockey
- Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey
- Colorado Visionaries Blind Hockey
- Dallas Blind Hockey
- Hartford Braillers
- Indiana Blind Hockey
- Maine Blind Bears
- Michigan Blind Hockey
- Minnesota Blind Hockey
- New York Metro Blind Hockey
- New York Nightshade
- Pittsburgh Rhinos Blind Hockey
- Seattle Blind Hockey
- St. Louis Blues Blind Hockey
- Washington Wheelers
INTERNATIONAL BLIND HOCKEY FEDERATION
The International Blind Ice Hockey Federation (IBIHF) was created in 2015 to lead the development of the sport of Blind Ice Hockey, focus on international development and recruitment, and gain inclusion in the Winter Paralympic Games. The IBIHF has currently has two member countries where the sport of Blind Ice Hockey is played – Canada and the USA – and is focused on recruiting six more countries to develop programs in order to have the necessary eight countries for a World Championships, and the opportunity to apply for the Paralympic Games.
The IBIHF objectives are:
- To oversee and govern the adapted rules of Ice Hockey for the Blind
- To develop a classification code to allow all blind and visually impaired hockey players to fairly compete in the sport of Blind Ice Hockey
- To grow the number of players and competition opportunities in our member nations
- To recruit a minimum of 6 other member nations
- To host a World Championships for the sport of Blind Ice Hockey with 8 national teams
- To apply for inclusion in the Winter Paralympic Games