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Courage Canada Blind Hockey Camp A Huge Success

BURNABY—The hockey player took the pass at centre ice, cut to his left and raced down the boards, swerved past two defenders, cut into the middle of the goal area and fired. The goalie calmly took the shot on his stick and pushed it aside.

It was a remarkable play, especially because the skater is partially blind and the goalie is totally blind.

The game was the highlight conclusion to the inaugural Courage Canada National Youth Blind Hockey Camp which took place in Burnaby from August 7-12, 2014, with significant support from Tourism Burnaby.

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Courage Canada is a national charity that leads the development of blind hockey and provides children and youth with visual impairments with the opportunity to learn to skate and play hockey. The camp hosted 12 youths (two girls, ten boys) aged 12-18 from across the country, who are blind or partially sighted.

“Tourism Burnaby kindly stepped up and supported us,” said Nick Beatty, Courage Canada Communications Director, “It was this kind of support that made the camp possible and become the success it was.”

“We are excited to support Courage Canada and bring this event to life,” said Nancy Small, Executive Director of Tourism Burnaby. “The proximity of our sport facilities, accommodation and accessible transit makes our community a natural fit for adaptive and para-sport athletes. It is wonderful to see the athletes thrive in this environment and we look forward to partnering with Courage Canada on future blind hockey events.”

Participants to the camp were hand selected by Courage Canada. The athletes and their parents arrived at Burnaby’s newest jewel, Fortius Sport and Health Centre, where they were housed, fed and experienced Fortius’ world-class sport and health services during the six days of the camp.

“We are thrilled to have played host to Courage Canada’s first ever National Youth Blind Hockey Camp,” said Fortius CEO and President Craig Thompson. “It was inspiring to have 12 athletes from across Canada in our facility. We are pleased to provide the athletes with an integrated experience which included a strength and conditioning session, nutrition workshop, lodging and meals.

“Fortius Sport and Health is a community initiative intended to host organizations at all levels and abilities and we look forward to supporting future camps with Courage Canada.”

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The camp included five two-hour on-ice practices at Burnaby Eight Rinks, games of goalball, beep baseball and indoor soccer. And, of course, the showcase hockey game that combined camp participants with the Vancouver Eclipse Blind Hockey team.

Blind Hockey is one of the fastest growing para-sports in Canada using slightly modified rules to make the game accessible. The puck makes noise and is both larger and slower than a traditional puck. The top of the goal is covered so that only the bottom three feet is exposed. Goalies must be totally blind. A team is allowed one sighted player but said player cannot score. Each game consists of three 15 minute periods.

Several parents were interviewed about the camp and all were extremely enthusiastic about the facilities and opportunity afforded their child to participate. A father who travelled all the way from Newfoundland called the whole experience “AWESOME”, a lifetime experience for his son.

Next year? “We sincerely hope there will be another camp next year,” said Beatty. “It all depends on sponsors and the support we receive.” Given the overwhelming success of the first camp, they can certainly count on continued support from Tourism Burnaby and Fortius.

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