Four special needs hockey programs will be competing against one another as teams from Simi Valley, Bakersfield and San Diego are headed to Valencia for the 7th Annual SoCal Special Hockey Festival at the The Cube on Saturday.
Hosting the special event is SNAP Sports, a Valencia-based nonprofit organization offering sports-based programming to athletes with special needs, and the parent organization of the Valencia SNAP Flyers Special Hockey Club.
The SoCal Festival is sanctioned by the American Special Hockey Association for players with developmental disabilities. ASHA is a volunteer-driven association created to benefit individuals with such disabilities. There are more than 60 ASHA programs in 48 cities throughout the U.S
“This is the seventh year that our organization has hosted this great event,” Chris Schrage, president and co-executive director of SNAP Sports, said in a prepared statement. “Teams from this part of the country have far fewer opportunities to participate in festivals like this, which is why this gathering is so important. We at SNAP Sports are so proud to welcome these incredibly courageous athletes to the only special hockey festival west of the Rockies.”
Play begins on Saturday morning (10:45 a.m.) for all divisions, and continues throughout the day. All participants will assemble for the opening ceremonies featuring an athletes parade and a ceremonial puck drop at 12:40 p.m. Coaches will get a chance to show off their skills in the coaches’ game directly following the opening ceremonies. After the last game is played, there will be food and a hangout for the teams to hang out and have a good time.
Schrage added, “Special hockey is just that — special. Skill sets vary according to age and experience, but these players all share the same challenge of living with developmental disabilities. We’ll see some friendly competition when these players hit the ice, but there will also be a lot of cooperation. Special hockey is unique in that it gives players the chance to develop confidence, social skills and teamwork, which enhance their existence on and off the ice. By shattering any notion of limitations, athletes with a variety of special needs have found incredible personal success through playing hockey.”
There is no cost to attend the festival and it is open to the public. For more information about the SoCal Special Hockey Festival, go to http://snaphockey.org/socalfestival/.