A Lewiston resident is aiding the effort to bring a new special needs hockey team to Western New York.
Regina Cecconi, the current president of Lewiston Lions Club, is working with WNY Lions get a new organization, the Greater Buffalo Adaptive Sports Lions Specialty Club, up and running in the hopes of fielding a blind hockey team.
Blind hockey is a format of the sport with a few adjustments for the visually impaired. The puck is bigger, makes a noise and is made to move slower on the ice. The nets are smaller, making things a touch easier on the goalies, and there’s a one-pass rule to allow defenders to better follow the play.
Cecconi would know what a sport like hockey can mean to those who play it. Her son, Joseph, grew up playing the sport, turned that into a scholarship to the University of Michigan and is now a pro in the Dallas Stars organization.
GBAS was chartered this past June to support the Greater Buffalo Blind Hockey Team. It’s the first club created specifically for blind hockey in Lions Clubs International, which has some 48,000 clubs worldwide. Regina Cecconi is a guiding Lion for the GBAS, helping train its new leaders as they adjust to the job.
Lions is a family affair for the Cecconis. Joseph is a new member of GBAS, while Regina’s daughter, parents and nieces are also members in some of the WNY districts 46 clubs.
The team itself is sponsored by the Greater Buffalo Adaptive Sports Foundation — formerly the Sled Hockey Foundation — and the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.
Members of the team will also do community service through GBAS, giving back while participating in another important social outing.
“The goal is to support the team in raising money for travel, equipment, whatever it needs to play competitively,” Cecconi said. “We’ll help the members when we do any community service after COVID.”
Adam Page, the Lancaster-born sled hockey player who won three Paralympic gold medals with Team USA, and his father, Norm, are handling the on-ice operation. The new team will play against teams in Pittsburgh and Toronto, and the Pages are working to get grants to fund new teams in Rochester and Syracuse.
Unfortunately, the team hasn’t been been able to hit the ice just yet due to coronavirus. In the meantime, Cecconi and the other leaders are working to raise funds, currently holding a virtual 5K through Oct. 10.
Cost for the race is $20, with 100% of proceeds going to the team. They’re also looking for volunteers and are accepting donations.
To participate in the 5K, visit gbasvirtualrace.itsyourrace.com. For more information on GBAS, call or text 716-218-0123 or email GBASblindhockeylions@gmail.com. Membership is open to anyone 18 years or older.