Carnegie Mellon's Dan Hefley To Play Goalie for
U.S. National Under 20 Paralympic Hockey Team
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Dan Hefley, 18, was recently selected to play goalie on the U.S. National Under 20 Paralympic Sled Hockey Team that will compete Nov. 21-24 in Sacramento, Calif. Members of this prestigious hockey team will have the opportunity for selection to the U.S. Paralympic Hockey Team that will go to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.
"I am very excited to play with some of the best young players in the sport this year. It is a terrific opportunity to participate in an activity which is nationwide," said Hefley, a freshman engineering major at Carnegie Mellon.
Hefley, who has spina bifida, will make the trek to California with fellow teammate Danny McCoy, 14, of Cheswick, Pa. For practice, both Hefley and McCoy play in Harmarville, Pa., with the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins coached by Ray Harding.
"Hefley is a wonderful role model for our younger players because he never fails to be there for them when they need a little extra encouragement," Harding said.
Sled hockey follows typical ice hockey rules with the exception of the equipment. Players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades. There are two sticks for each player instead of one, and the sticks have metal picks on the butt end for players to use to propel themselves.
"Hefley is a great goalie because he has courage and quick reflexes," said Bob O'Connor, coach of the U.S. National Under 20 Paralympic Hockey Team. "The entire team works very hard in the offseason to be both competitive and highly skilled."
O'Connor, who has coached national and Olympic hockey teams for more than two decades, says the hockey playing motto is simple: "If it is to be; it is up to me."
"Each player knows how important it is to be able to move with speed and agility, and the goalie also knows that the puck can travel in excess of 70 miles per hour," said O'Connor of Hopkins, Minn.
O'Connor said each player has a strict training regimen to complete before hitting the competitive playing trail. "We give them a laundry list of skill-building exercises, including exercises that force them to be able to move the puck with either hand — an exercise that professional hockey league players would find challenging," O'Connor said.
Sled hockey, or sledge hockey as it is referred to outside the U.S., was invented at a Stockholm, Sweden, rehabilitation center in the early 1960s by a group of Swedes, who despite their physical disability wanted to continue to play hockey.