BVA Blind hockey Washington Elite at Olympic Training Center Lake Placid
I’m excited too, Big Jim. We’re gonna get blind hockey into the Paralympic Games, and have a hell of a great time doing it!
The 1st Annual BVA Lake Placid Blind Hockey Invitational brought together Blinded Veterans and visually impaired athletes from across the country. They all made the trek by plane and car up into the Adirondack’s, to the Olympic Village in Lake Placid for an epic adventure. They came because Bruce Porter had organized a national blind hockey training camp at the Olympic Training Center, and the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
Early Start For The Vets
The Vets and Coach Bruce left from BVA headquarters at 4am the day before Thanksgiving. It rained the whole way to New York City, and then the rain turned to snow as they headed upstate. The team was in the Olympic Village by 1pm. With lots to do Coach Bruce dropped off the Vets, and took the nets to the Saranac Lake Civic Center with Bulat.
With many of the athletes arriving on Thanksgiving Day the BVA and Washington Elite team had to make sure they had the holiday spread, so they stopped by the grocery store on the way back to the house ensuring they had all the needed supplies. That night the athletes and volunteers dined together at the house, they had plans to skate at the Olympic Training Center the next morning.
Thanksgiving morning the team suited up to join the Olympic Training Center’s Skating Director, Karen Cortland on the ice. After working with Karen, Porter was able to get some additional dedicated blind hockey ice from the OTC at 12 noon that day. So the team headed back to the house to eat some lunch before hitting the Olympic ice.
At 12 noon the BVA Blind Hockey Washington Elite team hit the Olympic ice with pucks for the 1st time. They shared a live video, took photos, and worked on their hockey skills.
After skating the team relaxed while Porter and Hall continued the Thanksgiving dinner preparations. Couple of turkeys and hams, fixings et al for 30 athletes plus volunteers slated to join them later that day.
The Bateman family was the first to arrive, with retired Army Grandpa Rishell in tow. Grandpa Rishell was instrumental in getting the Thanksgiving dinner finished and served up to the troops!
I know I always say it, but the United States Military continues to produce the most capable set of men and women on earth. It’s a real honor to work with these people, it’s my high honor. Thank you.
It all Starts with Learn To Skate
Next morning we woke up early and met the rest of the team at the Saranac Lake Civic Center. The media was on hand for the event, along with US Figure Skating’s Learn to Skate media director Mimi Mckinnis. Mckinnis. The US Figure Skating’s Learn to Skate program has been very supportive of Porter and the Blinded Veterans Association’s initiative into blind ice skating. Blinded Veterans Big Jim Sadecki and Lawrence Harrison posed for photos with Mimi, who had snuck away from Skate America 2017 to meet the team in person.
After handling the media, US Figure Skating, skating and hockey drills the athletes jumped into an exciting blind hockey match! On one line they had St. Louis up and coming star, Nick Silver on right wing with Hartford Braillers superstar, Keith Haley on the left. Blinded Veteran, Washington Elite sensation Jacked Belony took the face off for the historic match.
After the match the team headed back for a quick shower and lunch, they had a date with destiny at 2pm on top of Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run. None of the athletes or volunteers had ever been on an Olympic bobsled run before. Porter knew blind bobsled was possible because during his time training ice dance in Lake Placid he worked with The Regional Olympic Development Authority (ORDA) on the bobsled runs. He was able to ride the bobsled and luge runs many times.
The Olympic Authority was ready for the team as they arrived. Riding the bobsled is like nothing you’ve ever done before, it makes a roller coaster look like the kiddie pool. Porter worked closely with ORDA to have a professional bobsled driver and brakeman on each sled in order to safely bring the team down the mountain. After sending the team down Porter hopped on the last bobsled with the live feed still rolling, videoing the ride down Mt. Van Hoevenberg.
That. Was. AWESOME!
That evening most of the team met at the house, Bruce and volunteers had prepared another feast. There was plenty of food, and plenty of stories! The athletes spoke of their accomplishments that day, and told of their plans for tomorrow.
10am the next morning they were on the ice again at the Saranac Lake Civic Center. Porter had everything ready, including the vibrating blind puck prototype and speakers at both nets to help the totally blind athletes. With the help of volunteers Bulat Hall, Michael Haley, and Carsen Sadecki the practice was a huge success!
BVA Blind Hockey Washington Elite Lake Placid
After practice the team headed back to shower, eat and meet up in the Olympic Village. Porter let everyone know this was the time to buy souvenirs, take photos, and enjoy all Lake Placid has to offer. It was impossible to miss the BVA / Washington Elite hats and hockey jerseys as the athletes converged in the historic village.
Photos with the Budweiser Bobsled were a hit, but as the light dwindled so did the temperature. The athletes headed back to eat, and prepare for their evening activities. Big Jim Sadeckim and others went to the 1980 Olympic Arena and enjoyed the best figure skating in the world. The Skate America competition was in town, it’s one of the reasons Porter chose this week to come to Lake Placid. The Olympic Village is always more fun with a bunch of figure skaters running around. 😉
Championship Match At Olympic Training Center
The next morning Porter awoke very early. There’s nothing strange about that, but this morning he had a very special mission. Porter’s wife Emme, was supposed to join him on the trip to help out with the coaching and logistics. She was his ice dancing partner, and they coach together everyday. She runs the Learn to Skate program at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink in DC, as well.
Porter and his wife have crossed the globe together on blades, but for Emme this trip was unfortunately not meant to be. Emme is an accomplished skater, coach, a published author, and a former cheerleader+coach with the NHL Washington Capitals Red Rockers team. She was scheduled to coach the Skate America group number, and help the Skate America promotional Learn to Skate that morning.
Porter grabbed some coffee, waited for the right moment, and headed into the Olympic Training Center. The team had ice in Saranac Lake at 10am, but Porter wanted to get the championship match on the Olympic ice and he had a plan.
In life if you are not moving forward you are moving backwards, because the rest of the world is moving forward. Porter walked into the OTC and saw an official looking man standing by the Olympic ice with a clipboard. He introduced himself and told the man about the Blinded Veterans Association’s initiative in blind sports, and how he had a blind hockey team in the Olympic Village. While speaking with the gentlemen Porter was able to look at the clipboard, it was indeed the official Olympic ice schedule! AND – Porter could see there was an hour of free ice time at 1:30pm that day.
Turns out the guy was an OTC manager, and he was also a Veteran. Porter explained how his wife was supposed to be there that day helping to coach the Skate America Learn to Skate and group number, but was unable to come. Porter offered to come coach the group number and help with the Learn to Skate from 9:30am-11:30am if we could get the team on the Olympic ice at 1:30.
It took some time but after speaking with the rest of the OTC management team, the deal was struck. The Blinded Veterans Washington Elite Blind Hockey team would play their championship match on the Olympic ice! Porter sent out the information to the team, and cancelled the Saranac Lake ice time.
When Porter told Big Jim Sadecki of the plan he was ecstatic! “What are you doing at 9:30am?” he asked. Porter let him know he wasn’t sure, and that he had told the OTC and US Figure Skating he would do whatever was needed in return for the ice time. “Let me know when you know”, said Sadecki. “Maybe we’ll come watch.”
When Porter met with US Figure Skating later that morning they asked if he could be the Snowplow Sam mascot.. “We are definitely coming to see this!” Sadecki said when he found out the plan. All those years of watching Emme cheer at the Caps games came in handy for Porter, as the NHL Capitals mascot Slapshot is one of the best in the league. Porter knew exactly how a mascot should act, he was the best Snowplow Sam anyone had ever seen!
After a costume change – and lunch it was time for the team to meet at the Olympic Center for the championship match. The call time was 1pm, and many of the athletes had come early to make sure to get their photos with the Olympic rings in the background.
I’ll do just about anything for these guys, it just doesn’t matter. Commented Porter on he was the Snowplow Sam mascot to get the team on the Olympic ice. The management at the Olympic Training Center was phenomenal. They brought out the hockey nets, hung the Blinded Veterans Association’s banner – and an exciting blind hockey game ensued. There were a lot of folks at the OTC because of Skate America. It was a really great showing for the BVA, Washington Elite and blind hockey.
Video BVA Blind Hockey Lake Placid Championship Match
After the match the team posed for photos then met in the locker room. OTC skating director Karen Courtland had donated some trophies, and Porter had some words for the athletes. It’s a real honor to get to work with you guys, to share in your journey to the Paralympic Games. I know some of you may never get to play in a Paralympic qualifying match, or a World Championship game. But what we are doing is something very special. It’s not to be taken lightly. I have a lot of respect for you guys, you are all WINNERS!