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 and slower than a traditional puck. Players’ levels of vision range from legally blind – approximately 10% vision or less – to totally blind, with the lowest vision athletes playing defence or goal. 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 defence 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 slower than a traditional puck. The large size and slower speed helps 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. They 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 one game as it becomes dented when hitting the posts, skates, sticks and the boards, so be sure to build or order multiple Blind Ice Hockey pucks at a time.
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 17 Blind Hockey programs established in the US:
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