ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) — In 2006, when two Minnesota women realized that differently-abled people who wanted to play hockey didn’t have a league, they decided to start their own.
Jane Cashin and Susie MacMillan started Minnesota Special Hockey, a league where children and adults with special needs and abilities can compete. It’s part of Minnesota Disabled Hockey and USA Hockey.
Over the years, hundreds of individuals with special needs and abilities have competed on teams. Many are on the autism spectrum, have Down syndrome or have other conditions that make it harder to play on a traditional hockey team.
There are 14 teams across the state and now, Rochester is joining them as the 15th team. Recruitment has started, and all skill levels are welcome.
“We have started teams, and they have played with six players for the whole season which isn’t really enough for a team,” Cashin said. “You need a goalie, and then you change lines with hockey. You don’t stay on the ice the whole time. You’re too tired. Ideally, we’d like to have 10, 12 players to really have a team be really solid. Since we committed to this, they can have five players, and we’ll declare it a team. They’ll grow. The word has to get out.”
The season starts in November and runs through February. Cashin said practices usually happen on Sundays for an hour.
For Rochester, the location where the practices will happen still needs to be determined.
Players get their own Minnesota Wild jerseys with their names on the back. Families need to pay for equipment, but the organization also has some ability to provide some of it.
Cashin said equipment donations are always welcome.
“If you have equipment you know is sitting in your closet, go and dig it out. We can use it,” she said.
They are also looking for volunteers to help with coaching. Cashin said high school students volunteer a lot.
Last year, the league had more than 200 players and 200 volunteers.
For more information, visit the Minnesota Special Hockey website.