Werewolves breeze into the windy city for the 2018 Disabled Hockey Festival

Willis Tower, Millennium Park, Cloud gate, Navy Pier, The Magnificent Mile. All great landmarks to remember in Chicago but there is also another great memory and a landmark event – The 2018 USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival held  between April 5th – 8th 2018

This was the first USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival the Werewolves of London have attended and we were made to feel very welcome by the hosts, volunteers and other teams. It’s an incredible effort to put on an event of this scale and they did a magnificent job.

There is something about going to tournaments. It’s not just the excitement of seeing another city and culture, it’s the profound effect it can have on the players and their families that attend. Players start to socialise and bond with their team-mates, families learn about each other and can support each other with any challenges the trip may throw up.

Watching these players helping each other, to defend, to score, to support, to contribute with or without a puck, to all be valuable members in the side whatever the ability. It’s really humbling.

The majority of the team flew out together from Heathrow on the April 4th. The flight to Chicago O’Hare International Airport is a fairly long haul lasting over 9 hours but eventually we landed, boarded our coach and drove to our hotel in Elgin which was just over an hour by car from the Downtown Chicago.

For this tournament we had been drawn in Division A and had three matches scheduled at two different rinks – one less than 10 minutes away and the other around 30 minutes away from our base.
As we didn’t have any matches on April 5th, the Werewolves players, families and coaches took a trip downtown in Chicago for the day.

The weather in Chicago was pretty chilly with snow in the air so groups dispersed to see the sights and soak up the Chicago lifestyle.

The Chicago Skyline

Game Day

The following day was game day. Our goalies had the earliest start as they were assisting the Donaldson Diamonds special hockey team who were short of a netminder. Our dynamic goalie duo of Matthew and Dyllin went to their aid and played in their 3 matches over the tournament as well as ours. The rest of the team arrived shortly after with an early 8am match against Wisconsin Timberwolves.

The Leafs Ice Centre had stalls selling hockey merchandise as well as an incredible raffle which included all manner of goods and some genuine Chicago Blackhawks hockey merchandise.

The team played 3 matches over 2 days. Our opponents were Wisconsin Timberwolves, Donaldson Diamonds and the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team. We managed a loss, draw and win but these tournaments are never about the results, they are a celebration and about the experience, giving equal opportunity, fair play and of course fun.

Players shake hands after the game as the supporters applaud both teams

It was also great to take in some of the deaf, blind and Warrior hockey. These athletes are all amazing.

A big thank you as well to our two guest players during the tournament – Shane and Dylan. You guys were awesome and we loved having you as part of our team.

Friday night saw a get together of many of the teams where the teams traded pins and had the opportunity to take part in the sock hop!

More Media

Big thank you to the parents for the pictures and video clips. The official match photos can be found here

Werewolves of London vs. Wisconsin Timberwolves

Werewolves of London vs. Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey Team 1

Werewolves of London vs. Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey Team 2

You can find details of all our tournaments on our tournaments page https://werewolvesoflondon.org.uk/tournaments/ .
There are also some game photos from the tournament already on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WerewolvesOnIce/

Watch this great video created by Kevin whilst we were out there

Off the ice

During the tournament the players, coaches and families spent time together and also did some activities on their own or in groups. Whether it was pickup hockey, shopping, the swimming pool, the Zoo, Chicago Bulls basketball, Paint-balling, Aquarium, Sports bars or dining at the Charhouse grill next door to the hotel, there was plenty to see and do.

So what was it like?

It’s always great to get the views of parents, particularly those for who this was the first tournament and if you are reading this and have been considering attending one or are a sponsor or fundraiser wanting to help us give more kids and young adults the opportunity please read the comments below from some of the families who went.

This was our first tournament. It was one memorable experience for Matthew and the whole family. Obviously Matthew cannot give his feedback but from his actions I could tell that he was looking forward to the games because he cooperated very well getting his kit on.

I personally think it was inclusiveness at its best simply because the whole tournament took care of all abilities but more so because the Werewolves as a team were very supportive of Matthew and other players. From Matthew’s perspective, he was given an opportunity to make a contribution to the team which we are all very proud of and I believe this boosted his confidence. Thanks to the players.

The coaches were very helpful right from the dressing up to the games. We definitely felt supported. Thanks to all the coaches and I would like to especially mention Zak who helped Matthew a few times with getting ready and on the ice. I forget the other names of coaches who had hands on with Matthew and those that encouraged him along the way.

Pheonah.

Dyllin had a great time and showed how much Patricia’s hard work has helped him….Thank you all who made the tournament happen especially the coaches, Mike, parents and of course our wonderful children!

Tracy.

Watching Joshka play was unbelievably wonderful.

Rachel.

It was awesome – an amazing first experience of playing proper matches for the girls. Can’t even believe how much work goes into making it possible and we are so grateful.

Brigid.

Manny had a blast and so did I

Andrew.

Thank you everyone for a great first tournament. To all the players, coaches, parent/carers and Mike for making it happen, Daisy loved it.

Kevin.

I have to say it was amazing to see everyone grow as a team over the weekend, each and every player made an important contribution and I felt fortunate to be a part of it.

Coach Luke.

I see Jamie smile so much on this trip and he made some good friends too. He only had one melt down which is amazing for him plus didn’t know if he would play the last game but he turned it around and played the best I’ve ever seen him play. He has learnt so much in being friendly to others as well.

Coach Nick.

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