In October, I had one of the best weekends of my life. It all started on the 8 – hour drive from LI, New York to Pittsburgh, PA. At first I felt a bit sick and had a major headache. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to make it the whole way there! However, the pains in my head decreased and my excitement got rid of the feeling of sickness. Hours later, we arrived in Pittsburgh. It was my brother and I’s first time ever in the city. I looked out the window and could not believe my eyes. I was seeing the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex – In other words, I saw the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice facility! But that wasn’t all that made a smile grow on my face. Our hotel was right across from the rink! I was so happy at that point. It was a Friday and I had a game that day. So we checked in at the rink. The Pens Blind Hockey members gave me a bag with a bobblehead, jersey and flashlight. After that, we visited the hotel which was within walking distance. How convenient! Next, it was time for my first game. Turns out it was a practice. The next thing we did was go into our assigned locker rooms. I went to locker room #3 and started getting suited up for the practice. After I was done, it was time to get on the ice. So, I took off my glasses and started down the hall. It was quite difficult to navigate around everywhere but with the help of my brother I was in good hands. I stepped on the ice surface. For the first time in my life, I began to skate while being legally blind with no correction. The feeling was incredible. It was so different with very low vision, yet it was a beautiful sight. I guess hockey comes natural for me because I did not have the hardest time skating, but it was a little struggle. When the practice began, I started out a bit insecure but as the session progressed, I felt better than ever. Day 1 is a wrap!
The next day we had breakfast and then went to skate. I had 4 sessions on that Saturday. The four different times I was eligible to play, I felt like I was in heaven! I had such a great time experiencing blind ice hockey wearing no corrected lenses or glasses. That night, some of the participants of the summit went to see the Nashville – Pittsburgh game. When we arrived at the PPG Paints Arena, I was so happy and thankful to be there. The arena was so cool and interesting. The game was absolutely amazing! I got to experience the epic Penguins fan base. I even got to hear their horn after the Penguins scored 4 times! Aside from the NHL game, day II was great.
Sunday meant it was our last day at the 2017 Summit. The tournament ended with two victories by the gold teams. In fact, I scored in one of the games. Blind Ice hockey was so much fun, even though it was hard to see. That concluded our trip. I left Pittsburgh feeling so eager to come back! I had a blast playing blind ice hockey in the Penguins practice ice rink and going to the Penguins game. That trip to Pittsburgh for the 2017 Blind ice hockey summit was unforgettable. It was so nice meeting people from all different parts of the country and who had different levels of impairment. I was lucky enough to meet some people who made my trip even more positive! The visually impaired community is such a great group of people. I am so grateful for the opportunity and would love for every visually impaired person to experience this type of hockey as well.