Hockey is for everyone, despite any disabilities someone may be dealing with. You saw that if you were at one of the eight hockey rinks at the National Sports Center Feb. 21-23. This is the fourth year the Super Rink held the Hendrickson Foundation’s Hockey Festival. This year, the Hendrickson Foundation hosted 1,000 athletes from 54 adaptive and Warrior Hockey teams from 12 different states and two countries, to compete in a weekend hockey tournament. In partnership with USA Hockey and MN Hockey, the Hendrickson Foundation has a mission of growing the game of hockey by making it accessible to all people, despite any challenges they may be living with. By doing this, the foundation creates a stronger and more inclusive State of Hockey.
The Hendrickson Hockey Festival is the highlight of the hockey season for many of the individuals participating in the Festival. It’ll return to the Super Rink again next year and will be bigger and better, featuring sled, adapted and blind hockey. Hockey challenges and develops players as individuals and athletes; it promotes physical and mental health, as well as sportsmanship, camaraderie, self-confidence and a sense of belonging. For many of these athletes participating in this event, this is the end of retreating inward and the beginning of reaching out socially to participate in events, create relationships and have fun.
In a 2018 interview with The Athletic, Hendrickson Foundation founder, Larry Hendrickson said “After I met the people, how their lives are affected, it’s one of the greatest joys of my life.” Larry unfortunately passed away in 2018 at the age of 75, but his vision for the Foundation is still flowing through his children and will always reflect their father’s legacy.
A Millitary moment
Daniel Acree is a MSgt. for the United States Air Force, who hadn’t seen his children and family in over two years. That was until the puck drop before the Sotastick vs. Fan HQ celebrity game on Saturday. Acree walked onto the ice to surprise his son, an athlete participating in the youth sled tournament at the event.
It was a special moment for everyone in attendance to be able to capture and witness this incredible reunion between a dad and his boys. Minnesota Wild defensemen Matt Dumba, the boys from On The Bench and other media personalities were packed into the Super Rink to witness this homecoming and support the foundation’s mission statement that hockey does indeed change lives. While the efforts made by the Hendrickson Foundation is to subsequently grow the game, the game itself is the vehicle that drives the true mission; enrichment, inclusivity and breaking down barriers for the athletes and their families.
Everyone who was there to witness the Festival had a wonderful time and were happy to share the love of the game. Once again, the State of Hockey opened rinks and hearts for a cause that makes a difference in the world. The National Sports Center is grateful to have been included in such an amazing experience that turns hockey into recreational therapy.