It was difficult to tell who had more fun, the Flyers or the students they instructed Wednesday from the Overbook School for the Blind.
After the Flyers’ practice ended, they stayed on the ice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees and gave the students some tips. Some students fired regular pucks and special oversized, noise-making pucks into the net. Some students sat in chairs and were pushed around the ice by the players. Some were given one-on-one instruction on how to shoot the puck.
All parties had smiles that seemed to extend from one blue line to the other.
Tim Maenner, 19, was among the students from the West Philadelphia school. He plays in a league for blind players. Maenner got some lessons from his favorite player, Wayne Simmonds.
“He showed me how to shoot the puck,” Maenner said. “It was exciting to skate with the Flyers.”
Simmonds said: “We all had a good time out there. ... Tim ... was one of the true hockey players, and he was flying around out there. He was telling me he is here every Saturday, and he said this is his rink. It was awesome.”
Justin Morrisey, 20, sat in a chair that was pushed around the ice by goalie Carter Hart.
“Me and him are the same age,” Morrisey said, excitedly. “I was flying around the ice.”
Claude Giroux pushed several students around the ice.
“The more they smiled, the more I was,” the Flyers' captain said, adding that one student, Stephanie Algarian, told him the speedy ride he gave her was “more fun than a roller coaster. We had a blast out there.”
Giroux was impressed with the students.
“They go through a lot, and for them to be able to go on the ice and have the courage to skate around, it’s pretty impressive.”
Hart said: “It was fun, man. It was a cool experience. I’ve never done anything like that before, so to get out there and get a chance to help them – for a lot of them, it was their first time on the ice – and just hearing them describe their feelings was pretty cool.”
Seeing the joy on the students’ faces made it a special day, Hart said.
“It was cool for us to kind of step away from the game,” he said.
Overbrook School for the Blind, which was founded in 1832, serves about 200 students, ages 3 to 21. Those who play hockey have vision levels that range from legally blind – about 10 percent vision or less – to totally blind.
Blind hockey came to the United States six years ago, and now there are 10 established blind-hockey programs in the country.