Keep your ear on the puck: Father-son duo on a mission to build blind hockey in N.L.
Before Brandon Joy was diagnosed as being legally blind, neither he nor his father Steve Joy had heard the term "blind hockey" before — or imagined how it would even be possible.
Nearly seven years later, the father and son from Conception Bay South are still working to build the sport's presence in Newfoundland and Labrador.
When Brandon was just three years old, Steve Joy learned his son was visually impaired, with very minimal peripheral vision and complete night blindness. He was 13 when he became legally blind. That's when the CNIB Foundation, a charitable organization and volunteer group that assists Canadians who are blind or living with vision loss, stepped in.
"The CNIB knew that Brandon had played hockey right from the age of five on up," Steve Joy told CBC News in an interview at the Paradise Double Ice Complex, where father-son duo have been growing the sport.
The CNIB put them in touch with the Canadian Blind Hockey association, and a summer camp put on by the charity in Vancouver was just the experience both Joys needed to dive head-first into the game and bring it home to Newfoundland and Labrador.
"I said, 'You know what? Let's go and figure it out and see what it's all about,'" Steve Joy said. "We got to Vancouver, we met the players, we met some of the people that were there. Great people."
The Joys decided to take what they learned and apply it at home so other visually impaired people in Newfoundland and Labrador could get on the ice.
Sound and communication
The game is played much the same as regular hockey, said Brandon Jo, who is now 19 years old.
The puck is bigger, made of metal and houses ball bearings so the players can hear it, he said, and the net is about 30 centimetres shorter.
"Other than that, there's no real big difference," Brandon Joy said.
"It's mostly based on sound and communication. That's the most important part."
WATCH | Blind hockey players take to the ice in Paradise:
Participants took to the ice with some help from high school hockey players last week an introductory event in Paradise. With guide dogs leading the way, about a dozen players suited up.
"I like playing with other people. The community surrounding it is amazing and I just love playing hockey," said Brandon Joy.
"I've been playing since I was five so being able to play still, while being legally blind, is just awesome."
Steve Joy operates the Newfoundland Eyelanders hockey team. He said he just wanted to bring the sport to everybody he could.
"Hockey is Canada's game," he said.
"Here in Newfoundland, I don't want to have somebody who has a visual impairment sitting down, saying, 'I'd love to be able to try it.' Well, they can try it. We play it every Sunday."