If you’re interested in getting something more out of hockey than just the fitness, fun and friendship that comes with the greatest team sport in the world, then I have a sincere recommendation for you: devote some of your time and resources to supporting hockey’s inclusive programs.
My family has had the pleasure of volunteering for one of our local American Special Hockey Association programs - the Steel City Icebergs. My daughter found this organization through our local rink. From the age of 11, my figure skating daughter was always looking for a way to make a difference in other children's lives. It’s just an innate quality she possesses (enough fatherly bragging). She started volunteering as an on-ice coach for this special hockey program and after being inspired by her effort, my son and I signed on as well. What I discovered when I was there changed my understanding of the game and of coaching in general.
The Icebergs (and other programs like it) introduce and nourish a love of the game for individuals that wouldn’t otherwise be considered eligible for traditional ‘competitive’ or youth hockey programs. It creates an environment which accepts all players regardless of their challenges (physical, developmental, or emotional) and affords them a safe space to experience the sport and if the desire is there, develop and play competitive hockey.
There is no experience which rivals watching a player who may require assistance elsewhere in their daily lives, skate on their own, score their first goal, or make their first save. The sense of joy and accomplishment is more pure and pronounced than any display I’ve ever witnessed on the ice.
Add a paragraph about competitive nature of the hockey - ranging from traditional ‘t-ball’ experience to hardcore competitive hockey. There aren’t limits. This isn’t watered down. It’s real hockey.
If you have the availability and desire I can’t recommend strongly enough that you visit the American Special Hockey website and find a program near you. Though I most enthusiastically recommend getting involved on the ice, these programs are always in need of donated equipment, professional services (accounting, digital marketing, general management), and pure volunteer effort for some of the special events.