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Calls to Action

Local Program Teaches Hockey to Individuals with Disabilities

October 22, 2014


(October 22, 2014) - The Pittsburgh Emperors and the Ice City Icebergs are two teams who are bringing uniqueness to the ice. These teams cater to individuals who have developmental disabilities, and would like to play hockey. Some of the disabilities inlcude autism, down syndrome, and those suffering from traumatic brain injury.

The Pittsburgh Emperors are managed by John Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I have two autistic children who love sports,” said John Stevenson, 51, team manager of the Pittsburgh Emperors. “Seeing the reaction of these kids when they score goals, that’s my joy.”The team started this past August with 7 participants and is rapidly growing. Now the team has 23 participants that regular attend practices.The Steel City Icebergs is the other hockey team which caters for individuals with developmental disabilities in the Pittsburg area. This team has been around since 2007, and is supported by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The coaching staff said the most challenging part is teaching some of the fundamentals. A lot of the children need extra assistance in learning how to hold a hockey stick properly and being taught the correct way to stand in skates. Gary Verwer, the coach of the Emperors has new skaters pushing a chair around the ice to improve their balance. Mr. Verwer said, “They’re eager to learn, to improve. We had one kid who’d never been on skates before. After 20 minutes, he tried to abandon the chair.”

It has become a huge success. Some of the parents have stated how excited their kids are going from the car to the ice rink, anticpating the excitment of playing. 

You can read more about these two hockey teams from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.