My First Ice Hockey Game

I’m not long back from my first ice hockey game.

A couple of weeks ago, Ushi’s puppywalker messaged me to tell me that she was coming over in a couple of weeks and would i like to meet up. Her partner was playing in an ice hockey game so that was why they were mainly coming over. Of course i said yes. She said that i was welcome to join her at the ice hockey game if i wanted as they had a free ticket going spare. I wasn’t sure about going at first because i didn’t think i would get much out of it. The last time i was offered to go to an ice hockey game was at a youth club i used to go to but i declined that time. This time though, i thought “what have i got to lose?””. The game was against the
Belfast Giants
And the
Braehead Clan
Who were a scottish team.

Once i had decided that i would go to the game, i emailed the
SSE Areena
To see if they offered some kind of audio description or at least an audio comentry so i could follow the game. When i emailed, they weren’t sure, but offered to look in to it for me. They soon got back to me and explained that they had no audio description, but could offer me a link to the live comentry for their web cast service which would link in to a hearing loop system. They also alerted me to the fact that the arreena used pyro tecnics at the start of the game and that they would be happy to have Ushi should i need to have her leave the arreena and bring her back in at a suitable time. I was mulling this over and decided just to play it by ear and see how she went.

So today i first of all went and did my parkrun, before eventually leaving and getting the 2 o’clock train up to Belfast. I got the bus up to Station street, where Ushi’s puppywalker and her friend met me before we all walked to the areena. We first of all went to Pizza hut to grab something to eat. Lots of pictures were taken of Ushi by her puppywalker. I had last visited Ushis’ puppywalker about 3 years ago so she was deffinetly glad to see Ushi. Ushi however was not in a posing mood. Once we were all fed and watered, we took Ushi for a busy where she decided to show off and roll around the grass a few times like a total loon. More pictures were taken which i did not mind at all.

We hung around outside until the areena opened their doors at 6 o’clock for the 7 o’clock game. The event manager of the areena met us, and told us that they had reserved disabled seats as they didn’t want Ushi getting trampled on during the game. They advised us of the pyro tecnics again and showed me how to work the hearing loop system. This was like a tiny little match box with a volume control which was also the on/off switch. I was given a spare in case the first one didn’t work and a pair of headphones. They had told me that they had never had a visually impaired person request a comentry, so weren’t sure how useful it would be. They also advised us that because the Braehead Clan were running a little bit late, the game wouldn’t start until half 7. We were left to our own devices for a while until the game started. I fed Ushi while i was waiting since i knew there was grass outside.

There was music being blasted out across the ice rink, before the ice hockey teams came on to warm up and practice a little. Details were also given about a raffle to win a signed jurzy from one of the players, and tickets were being sold called 50 50 tickets. This was where whoever baught one of these tickets was put in to a draw at the end of the game to win all of the money that was made from selling the tickets. It was split half between the areena and the person who won it. Warnings were also given about the use of pyro tecnics.

The pyro tecnics vidio came on and everything was grand until there were two huge bangs that sounded like huge fireworks. Ushi found this quite hard and started trembling so her puppywalker took her out for me. I’m not sure if the firework sounds scared her though as shortly after she was brought in again she started shaking again. We quickly discovered she was in desperate need of a loo break so were wondering if it was that and not the sounds at all. After that was taken care of, she slept for most of the game. She did appear to get a little cold at times though.

The game is split in to 3 20 minute periods. In between, the players would get a chance to stretch etc before coming back on to the ice. The ice also had to be re surfaced after each 20 minute session. I must say the audio comentry was fantastic. I was able to follow exactly what was going on at every point. The music was a bit loud when goals were scored, but i just adjusted the volume a little. The quality was very professional. I didn’t understand some parts, but got the main jist of it. I pointed out to the areena that since they use this for hearing loops anyway, they should offer it out to visually impaired people. The game needed no further describing. You certainly get carried along with the atmosphere of the game. The sport itself seems quite violent, with quite a few penalties just in the first 20 minutes. There was also a fight that broke out between the players in the last half. The crowd really enjoyed themselves too, supporting whichever team was scoring. There was also a drum that was being beaten each time the crowd chanted for a team. The players also did fun things like jumping on the ice and things once their 20 minutes were over before returning propperly to the game after each session. There was also pizzas being given to random people and random subways being given out too. They passed us by though lol.

I would like to thank Ushi’s puppywalker for inviting me to the game. I think i would attend another. I would also like to thank the SSE Areena for being so acomidating, not only with the comentry, but also with checking regularly on Ushi and making sure we were all comfortable.

It was deffinetly a good experience, and i plan to go again just for the craic :).

Oh and the score was 4 2 to the Braehead Clan which was the team that Ushi’s puppywalkers’ partner played for.

Goalball Taster Session

On Saturday, i took part in a Goalball session organised by
Disability sport Northern Ireland.
Goalball is a sport where 3 people play. They are all blindfolded and you have to try and stop the ball from going in to the other persons goal. It can be very fast paced and gets very competitive.

I had played Goalball years ago as a taster session in Ballymena, but it was only held once and there wasn’t much interest. I was delighted when i got an email from Disability sports telling me that it was on and signed up straight away for it. I mentioned the session at one of our branch meetings for the fundraising branch, and a couple of people were interested, so we decided to all go along together to see what it was like.

So on Saturday morning, all 3 of us plus two dogs piled on to the 8 o’clock train from Ballymena as the session was in Belfast. It didn’t start until 2 o’clock, so we had a chance to grab a cuppa before we got the bus to the community centre where the session was to be held.

When we arrived, we met the two ladies from Disability Sport, plus two teachers who taught special needs children, plus two people who had came over from England. One was a coach from
Goalball UK
Who are the governing body for Goalball across the UK, and a guy who had played as a professional. There were two other ladies there too. We were also shown a place where the dogs could spend if they wished too. We were then given brand new knee pads and elbow pads which had been purchased by Disability Sports. They felt very odd on. I had to get smaller elbow pads though as the first ones were too big for my arms and they were worried they’d keep sliding about. We then found a place to tie the dogs before making a circle in the middle of the floor. We had to pass the ball to each other saying our names first and getting faster and faster, before having to say the persons name who was beside us, and stopping the ball from going in between our legs. We had to make our legs wide like a gate, while someone roled the ball along the floor. A person had to then run round the outside of the circle before the ball got around the circle.

It was then on to some propper goalball. We had to get down on our knees for this one. There was string taped across the floor to measure outa 9 metre courte and to orientate the players as to where there were on the courte. Each goalball courte is 9 metres. The people with no vision were then given blind folds so that everyone was on a level playing field. We then had to practice getting in to what was known as the defensive possition. This is where you lie on the floor to create a barier and to stop the ball from going in to the other teams goal by taking up as much of the floor as you possibly could. We were using a softer ball which was like a bowling ball with holes in it. It still rattled like a normal ball though. We also learnt how to shoot the ball from standing too. Each team played two games altogether.

The session was fantastic craic. When it was being explained, it sounded more complicated than it was meant to be, but once you got in to playing, you just had to go with it. It was certainly quite warm by the time we had finished. I would like to thank Goalball UK for coaching us, and i hope it takes off over here. The dogs were certainly very excited about seeing the ball, but i’m sure once they got used to it, they would have been grand.

I really did enjoy it and can’t wait to play some more. Hopefully it won’t be long until the next session. I don’t know if i would want to play competitively, but i really did enjoy it.