N.B.'s first blind hockey showcase aims to grow the sport

New Brunswick's only member of Canada's blind hockey team is hoping a weekend showcase in Saint John will help promote and grow the sport in the province.

Simon Richard of Dieppe helped organize the event through his role as program co-ordinator for Parasport NB. 

"I think it's great that we can get some new people out there and build the grassroots for the first time," said Richard.

Parasport NB, Hockey NB and the Nova Scotia Kings are working together to host the showcase. 

Two-day event

The first game of the two-day event is on Saturday at TD Station. Members of the Canadian and U.S. national teams will play along with people who have less experience and even one person who has never played before. 

Players take the ice again on Sunday for another game. Before the game, there will be a chance for people to learn more about the sport. 

Richard, who has also played for Canada's goalball team, is looking forward to growing a sport he loves in New Brunswick.

He said the next step for him, since he lives in the Moncton-Dieppe area, would be to start a program there.

"The sport is growing, not only in New Brunswick, not only in Canada, but also around the world, so it's really neat to bring it here."

New players

Denis Leblanc has 10 per cent vision, but that's not stopping him from taking the ice on Saturday. Leblanc has always loved hockey and played ball hockey growing up, but has never played blind hockey.

"A sport that's adapted for us, visually impaired people, it makes it more fun, because it's easier for us to play it," said Leblanc.

Simon Richard

The major difference in blind hockey is the puck makes noise and rattles as it moves along the ice.

Leblanc said that he would be interested in playing more if a program is established. He said he knows a few young athletes who would be interested in playing. 

On Sunday, Leblanc's two sons, who are also visually impaired, will participate in the morning's learn-to-skate program. 

"They are kind of excited to try it out, try something new. My son, he was like, 'Wow, I can hear the puck,' so they are all excited to give it a try, too," said Leblanc. 

Richard hopes to start a blind hockey program in the province within the next year.