The NHL’s New York Rangers are accustomed to playing for big home crowds. But Tuesday night, it was a different Rangers team getting the cheers.
Nearly 400 people gathered at Bryant Park’s famous ice rink in the heart of New York for the Wheelchair Sports Federation’s New York Sled Rangers 2016 Breakaway event, which celebrated and raised funds to support youth sled hockey players in America’s largest city.
The second edition of the event included a live auction to raise money for the Sled Rangers program, which has nearly doubled in size from 23 to 42 athletes since the first Breakaway event drummed up support and sponsorships in 2014.
It also had some star power.
Former NHL superstar and six-time Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier was on hand, serving as an ambassador for the signature Breakaway event and trying out sled hockey himself.
“You can never judge a person until you’ve skated a mile in their sled, which I got the chance to do today,” Messier said when addressing the attendees. “It was no easy task.
“These kids just want to be considered athletes and hockey players, and that’s what we’re trying to do first and foremost.”
The team is coached by Victor Calise, a member of the 1998 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team who now serves as the commissioner of the mayor’s office for people with disabilities in New York.
Initially a member of the Delaware Valley Hockey League for two years, last season, the Sled Rangers divided into three separate teams by geographic location in the city to create their own New York City league.
They also started an all-star travel team with the goal of having at least once Sled Ranger qualify for the 2022 U.S. Paralympic Team, and they had the chance to meet and skate with U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman last year.
Sebastian Milan, a 10-year-old Sled Rangers forward, was on cloud nine the entire night.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, because Mark Messier doesn’t play hockey anymore and you can only find him on Google images, and he played tonight with us and was very good in the sled,” Milan said.
Milan has been playing with the Sled Rangers every weekend for the last two years since he first heard about the sport when lying in a hospital bed. As one of the squad’s speediest forwards, he sports No. 20 on the back of his jersey just like his hero, New York Rangers winger and Massachusetts native Chris Kreider.
One of his Milan’s teammates, meanwhile, 13-year-old forward Emma Albert, was recruited by Calise three years ago and has dreams of one day playing on a U.S. women’s national sled hockey team.
“I was a little apprehensive about the sport at first, but after I tried it once, there was no turning back for me,” Albert said. “This event means a lot to me and all of my teammates just to know that someone at Mark Messier’s skill level and someone that famous wants to be a part of helping us grow sled hockey as a sport.”
Off the ice, Messier works as CEO of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx, which hopes to become the largest ice sports facility in the world when complete. The venue’s design takes into account the needs of sled hockey players, and will include accessible rinks, benches, penalty boxes and locker rooms.
“We met with his team and went through exercises to talk about what it’s like to venture through an ice arena as someone with a disability,” Calise said. “We even talked about hiring people with disabilities to work as staff on and off the ice. This is hopefully going to be the most accessible rink in the world.”
The Sled Rangers are excited to eventually make the switch from where they currently play — Lasker Rink in Central Park — to the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, thanks to the support of one of hockey’s all-time greats.
“I’m looking to help take this sport to a whole other level in the years to come,” Messier said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.
In order to comply with new requirements from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), USA Hockey will be implementing a national level background screening program. This program will replace all USAH Affiliate coordinated background screen programs.
Why must officials be screened?
Per USA Hockey and USOPC policy, all coaches, officials, board members, employees, volunteers, billets and anyone else who will have regular contact with, or authority over, minor athletes are required to submit a background screen before any contact with minor athletes.
Who is required to be screened?
Officials who are 18 years-old (or older) prior to June 1 of the current year.
Any official, 18 years-old (or older) without a completed valid background screen (national or USAH Affiliate coordinated) after April 1, 2019.
All national background screens are valid for two seasons, and starting on June 1, 2020 a national background screen must be completed and in good standing before receiving an officiating card and crest.
What are the timelines for launching the national background screen program?
Beginning on April 1, 2020, background screening will be conducted by our national background screen vendor, National Center for Safety Initiatives (NCSI), and information on background screening will be included following your registration.
As of March 22, 2020, applicants will no longer be able to submit new USA Hockey background screens through USAH Affiliate vendors, and will not be able to submit new screens through NCSI until April 1, 2020.
If you were screened after April 1, 2019 for the 2019-20 season, your screen is valid for the 2020-21 season, and you will not need to be screened under the new system until prior to the 2021-22 season. If your most recent screen is from prior to April 1, 2019, you will need to be screened under the new system, after April 1, 2020, in order to participate in the upcoming season.
All new screens submitted through the new NCSI national screening program after April 1, 2020 will be valid for two seasons. For example, a screen submitted and approved on April 15, 2020 will be valid through the end of the 2021-22 season, which is August 31, 2022.
How can members complete their required background screen?
A link to submit for screening will be included in your membership registration confirmation email and posted in the drop-down menu under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.
Background screens through NCSI under the national program will cost $30 for all domestic screens. For international screens (members who have lived outside of the U.S. for six consecutive months in any one county during the past 7 years) the flat rate fee is $150. If that country is solely Canada, the flat rate fee is $75.
Where can members go with questions about the national background screen program?
Please refer to the USA Hockey Background Screen webpage at USAHockey.com.
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