Rochester athlete gets chance to teach the sport she loves

Feb 5, 2020

One of the things that Carly Drew appreciates about hockey is how it combines many skills: skating, stick handling and much, much more, on ice. This year, she started a new volunteer position that lets her teach those skills to other players.

In September, a new team, called The Great Blizzard, came together in Kingston Rhode Island to let players with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities take to the ice with mentors of all ages, from elementary school to adults.

Drew first heard about the team from her aunt, who was a friend of one of the coaches and asked her if she would like to participate.

Some players joined the team with no skating history, and must learn to skate as well. Other students have some skating background and work with two or three mentors to learn stick handling, passing and shooting skills.

Players and mentors try to rotate and get to know each other, rather than having assigned mentors.

Drew, who has been playing hockey since she joined her brothers at age 5 or 6 and now plays on the ORR girl’s hockey team, appreciates the atmosphere both in her regular high school games and helping out with The Great Blizz, though the feeling from one practice to another is much different.

She calls high school games “faster-paced,” with occasional screaming fans or parents who get mad at the referees.

Great Blizz games are “definitely different,” and fun, Drew said. The team tries to create a no judgement zone for its players, and even at scrimmages, opposing teams support each other.

“It’s great that everyone can get involved in hockey, no matter their abilities,” said Drew.

She explained that she has always had an interest in helping students with special needs, and that the team allows her to combine that interest with her love of hockey.

Though she has taken a bit of time off from volunteering since the hockey season started (her ORR team has to win four of the next five games to make the tournament, and has had some close games recently), Drew said she will return to volunteering with The Great Blizz when her ORR season comes to a close.