Special Hockey Team Gets Kids With Disabilities on the Ice

See how these kids are able to overcome any challenge and have fun playing hockey

At a YMCA in Bethel Park, PA (about 10 miles south of Pittsburgh), a group of kids was suiting up for hockey practice.

They put on skates, pads, helmets. Some had a bit more equipment that others - harnesses or walkers. But nothing was going to keep these kids off the ice. These were the Pittsburgh Emperors, a special needs hockey team created for kids with developmental and physical disabilities.

My equipment was a little different - I had on skates, a camera, and before too long - a smile. Watch here as I find out what it's like at an Emperors practice:

The Pittsburgh Emperors were founded by John Stevenson, whose two sons, Tobias and Machaiah, have Autism. Through the sport of hockey Tobias, Machiah, and the rest of the team learn teamwork, build confidence, and learn to help others.

Coach Brian Poe explains how having a safe, structured activity like playing hockey helps these kids manage their disabilities. "We're giving them a goal to look forward - we're just trying to do that on a simple level with hockey," says Poe. "[Helping] them do something they enjoy, I think that's the key right there."

My camera got a lot of attention

The Emperors are members of the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) , which partners with the NHL's " Hockey is for Everyone " campaign. Both organizations encourage inclusion for people of any background. To make sure everyone is included on the Emperors, the team is split into a "B" section and a "C" section - C is for the kids who are new to the sport or who don't have as much skating experience and B is for kids who are more experienced.

"This team is very accommodating," said Deanna Gallagher, whose son, Andrew, has Cerebral Palsy and plays for the team. "No matter what - [they'll] make sure your kids can get out there and have the same experience as everyone else."

To learn more or to donate to this wonderful organization, check out the Pittsburgh Emperors' site here .

To find a special hockey team in your region, click here .

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