Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson is known for preventing goals. But with the recent success of Gibson’s Goals, he may be soon known for creating them.
John and Alexa Gibson are strong advocates for adaptive and inclusive hockey programs. In support of that mission, the couple created Gibson’s Goals, a charitable organization to spread the message that hockey is open and accessible to anyone.
“I think everybody’s on the same playing field,” John Gibson said. “Whatever people are going through, it goes to the side and you’re out there with your friends and your teammates just playing hockey and having fun. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
Gibson has previously been the Ducks’ player ambassador for the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. The program works to spotlight the game in a positive environment for players, families and fans of every race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation and socio-economic status, and for those with disabilities.
“The nice thing is that it helps a wide variety of people,” Gibson said. “It’s just about getting people together, getting them out and playing hockey.”
The Gibsons have particularly grown close with members of the San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey community, which helped in the formation of Gibson’s Goals. They’ve also worked with players from local blind hockey organizations and Top Flight Ice Hockey, an eight-week hockey program designed for participants with special needs.
During the 2018-19 season, the Gibsons, who are both from Pittsburgh, hosted two suite nights and an on-ice clinic. The following year, they created Gibson’s Goals.
“We kind of knew that we wanted to do something along that aspect and I just think sled hockey and disabled hockey in general was great because it covers such a wide variety of things,” John Gibson said. “I just think it’s easy to keep expanding and helping. It was kind of a no-brainer for us to jump on that when the opportunity presented itself, and we’ve been going strong ever since.”
In 2019, the Gibsons enjoyed a special on-ice session with the sled hockey team at Great Park Ice, a public skating facility and the Ducks’ practice rink in Irvine, California. Gibson, a three-time NHL All-Star, enjoyed time in one of the sleds.
“Sled hockey is underrated,” Gibson said. “It’s a lot harder than you think, being in that sled and doing what they do. I really can’t explain it. You don’t know the feeling until you’re in the sled. It takes a lot of strength.”
The past two years have been difficult to connect in-person because of COVID-19 restrictions. But the Gibsons have offered support by raising money for tournaments, sleds and more. Last year, the Gibsons surprised members of the Ducks sled hockey team with new lettered home and away jerseys.
“We’ve been trying to find different ways to help and continue supporting them,” John Gibson said. “It’s been good with the jerseys and sending them to tournaments, as opposed to the practices and in-person events. We’ve opened new doors and found new ways to support them.”
Through Gibson’s Goals, the Gibsons grew close with Lera Doederlein, a member of the San Diego Ducks sled hockey team. Doederlein was a recipient of the prestigious 21st Duck honor, a tradition started in 2015 that creates a spot on the opening night roster to honor a fan who embodies perseverance, character, courage and inspiration, or is making significant contributions to the local community.
Doederlein, an above-knee amputee, is a member of the U.S. Women’s National Development Sled Hockey Team and will represent Team USA at the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing as a member of the U.S. Para Nordic ski team.
The Gibsons were on the ice when Doederlein was named the organization’s 21st Duck.
“We ended up surprising her and the sled team,” John Gibson said. “She was excited about the whole experience. That was awesome to see and it kind of hit home.”
The Gibsons enjoy raising money for the organization and surprising participants with gifts. They’re equally appreciative of the “Thank You” cards they receive through the mail.
“We’re always getting a card, a poster or pictures from where they’re at,” Gibson said. “They do a great job of keeping us updated.”
The Gibsons said they love seeing a wide variety of participants coming together to enjoy the game. Hockey is the centerpiece, but John Gibson enjoys the relationships that are fostered between players of all backgrounds.
“By being around the Ducks sled team, I think the greatest thing we found is that they’re a family,” he said. “They do everything together and they build relationships that last a lifetime, from people in their 30s and 40s to kids on the team who are teenagers. It’s a wide variety of people just coming together and forming a family.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.