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Pennsylvania Claims "Paint America" Gold

01/08/2014, 4:00pm MST
By USAHockey.com

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Pennsylvania is the gold-medal state it was announced today by The USA Hockey Foundation in wrapping up its “Paint America Red, White and Blue” fundraising campaign that spanned the month of December.
 
The Keystone State's 32 donations led the nation, thus giving it the gold-medal designation. Michigan was not far behind with 27 donors and Massachusetts finished third with 24 donations. Contributions also came from newer hockey markets, including Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina. In total, some 300 people took part with more than $40,000 raised to benefit the continued advancement of hockey in the United States.
 
“We couldn’t be more thankful to those that participated in this very first Paint America Red, White and Blue campaign,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey and The USA Hockey Foundation. “The contributions received will help further opportunities in the sport at all levels and we are so appreciative of every single gift.”
 
The USA Hockey Foundation supports USA Hockey efforts that provide opportunities to disabled and disadvantaged youth; help increase participation through a variety of initiatives; enhance the safety of the game; help the U.S. be the best internationally; provide education programs for athletes, coaches, officials and parents; and celebrate the game through commemoration.

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Olympians Recall Silver Medal Quest in 1952

09/18/2014, 3:30pm MDT
By Mark Burns

Jim Sedin and Don Whiston are 60-plus years removed from their time with the 1952 United States Olympic Ice Hockey Team, a group that won the silver medal in Oslo, Norway. Both men are now in their 80s, and while some memories fade with age, the vivid ones remain.

Sedin remembers scoring the tying goal against Canada in the team’s final round-robin contest. With no knockout stage in those days of Olympic competition, his equalizer secured the silver for Team USA.

As for Whiston, the pomp-and-circumstance commencement of the Olympics still stands out in his mind.

“The opening parade was exciting,” Whiston recalls. “There’s no question about that.”

A former netminder at Brown University, Whiston remembers the U.S. Olympic Committee budgeting roughly $13,000 to cover the team’s expenses in the Olympic village. The sum would have left more than a few bills unpaid, so over the course of three months prior to the Olympic Games, the team traveled throughout Europe, playing 50-plus games to fund their trip with gate receipts.

When the Olympics began, Whiston played in the team’s first game against host Norway, and it’s a memory that lingers with the 87-year-old.

“You can imagine what that was like,” he said. “Standing on the ice and hearing the Star Bangled Banner was enough to give you goosebumps. I think the only time I was more excited was when my children were born.”

Growing up in New England, Whiston didn’t try playing between the pipes until his junior year of high school when he transferred from a Catholic school to a public school.

“I could skate like mad, though,” Whiston says of his time as a player.

His father and uncle had both played goaltender – and a future son would eventually play at Harvard University – so it was only fitting that Whiston continued in net. He might be best known for being the first college netminder to don a facemask.

“I guess I had the genes. The position came very easily to me,” said Whiston, who eventually worked in investment banking for 40 years following the Olympics.

The recent Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame inductee doesn’t play much anymore but stays connected to the game by following his young grandson who plays in Colorado. He’ll also be releasing a book soon, focused on his Olympic experience overseas. Even after shoulder- and hip- replacement surgeries and two major back operations, Whiston still works out every day with his two personal trainers and makes time for a weekly appointment with a masseuse.

Like Whiston, Sedin also endured hip surgery, about three months ago, which now results in regular physical therapy sessions.

After participating in the Olympic Games, Sedin contemplated juggling hockey and graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but after more deliberation, he opted for the California Institute of Technology instead.

“I thought that, ‘God, if I go out and start playing semi-pro hockey or professional hockey and try to go graduate school at MIT, I’m not going to make it.’ So I decided to go to Cal Tech,” said Sedin, who concentrated his time in business management and investments in the 1980s after an engineering career.

Pick-up hockey lasted until about 35, followed by a 10-year hiatus. Then came Sedin’s yearly participation in the Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament, an annual event created by Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schultz for players 40 and up. The 84-year-old Sedin finally stopped playing six years ago, but attempted a comeback on the ice last winter. Despite a strong passion for the game, sometimes the body can’t do what it once did, as the current Sun Valley, Idaho, resident discovered.

“It was just too discouraging,” Sedin said. “I just couldn’t do what I thought I should have been able to do. I may be done now.”

And while the curtain may finally be closing on his hockey-playing days, Sedin, like Whiston, can look back proudly on an epic career highlighted by silver in Oslo and a lifetime of great memories.

 

Fire on Ice

11/15/2013, 3:15pm MST
By Brenna Payne with the help of Eric Littman

Blind Hockey Debuts at Disabled Festival

05/18/2015, 9:45am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

Christine Osika started losing her sight as a teenager. She will always have her peripheral vision, but she’ll continue to lose her central vision. 

Osika is blind. She’s also a hockey player. 

A hockey lover all-around, Osika didn’t want to give up her favorite game due to disability. In the fall of 2014 she co-founded Courage USA to give herself and others like her across the United States the chance to play hockey. 

Osika and her Courage USA teammates debuted blind hockey at the 2015 USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Buffalo, New York. With 71 teams and 147 games from April 9-12, the new discipline drew the largest audience. It was simply another case of the human spirit conquering adversity.

“That was really nice,” Osika said of the full house cheering on her team at the festival. “That was probably the biggest crowd any of us have played in front of, let alone for blind hockey. That was really cool.”

Blind hockey players have to have 90 percent sight loss. They play with a larger puck that has noisemakers in it so the players can hear where it is on the ice. They also have one particular rule in that when the puck enters the zone, they have to make a pass before than can shoot it on net. When that pass is made, a ref blows a high-pitched whistle to let the goaltender know the puck can now be shot on net. 

Despite these specific rules and modifications to their game, the players are working at full speed, using their senses to make their way across the ice.

“I saw it quite a few times, in amazement, a player skating down the ice and feeling the presence of another skater coming in to check them, and moving away from that player,” Norm Page said, who helped organize this year’s festival. “It was incredible. It was amazing to see the human spirit. It was powerful.”

While it was the first year blind hockey was a part of the USA Hockey Disabled Festival, it was the 11th installment of the event itself. What started as a small gathering of a few programs has grown exponentially over the years.

Page noted that this year’s event needed two arenas with six different ice sheets. With sled hockey, special hockey, deaf/hard-of-hearing hockey, standing/amputee hockey, and now blind hockey, the festival celebrates these athletes who dedicate just as much time to their game as standup, sighted hockey players do. 

“It’s just incredible to see the growth,” Page said. “I think that we can relate that to so many different things, but a lot of it is the support of USA Hockey. It’s a huge piece of that. Being able to go out do things like clinics and talks with different programs, helping to teach the education piece in all aspects of hockey, and helping folks develop their own disabled programs, helping them support their own programs in the long run. I think really speaks volumes about the education process that we’ve been able to do.”

With that ongoing education and an annual spectacle of the sport, constant awareness is brought to the different disciplines of the game. Thanks to the help of USA Hockey Foundation donor dollars – which puts $25,000 toward the festival each year – the cost of the weekend is decreased, while the exposure of disabled hockey is increased. Simply because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they aren’t a hockey player.

“I’ve been doing disabled hockey for 18 years now and I don’t think we’ve ever seen — be it standup or disabled hockey — I don’t think we’ve ever seen the popularity like we are now,” Page said, who’s own son, Adam, is a Paralympic sled hockey player. “It’s things like this, getting people to see different types of hockey and understand that anybody can play the sport. 

“When we talk about USA Hockey and that hockey is for everyone, that’s really what it’s all about. We believe it and live and breathe it every day.”

The Festival and disabled hockey itself would not be possible without the efforts of everyone involved in the game. Without the help of the USA Hockey Foundation and its donors, the coaches, volunteers, and the family and friends that get the players to the ice, the sport wouldn’t be anything near what it is today.

“Without your support system, you can’t make it happen; you can’t get to the rink,” Osika said. “My husband has to bring me, or my father, or friends of mine. We can’t do it without them.”

“It’s everybody,” Page added. “It really is a complete community, starting right from the top with USA Hockey and the USA Hockey Foundation and their huge commitment to disabled hockey. It starts there and works its way right down the rinks.”

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