Special Hockey is Cooler Than Ever


Caitlin Baran (left) and Lavender Capenos (right) hit the ice along with 7 other players this Sunday when Happy Valley Special Hockey kicked off their first practice at noon.

Addie Orndorff, Staff Writer


Big things arrived at Pegula Ice Arena this Sunday, November 22. After ten years of hard work, this date marked the beginning of something which will have incredible impacts: the initial practice of State College’s first ever Special Hockey team.

A great way to kick off the program, a total of 9 players and a few coaches came out to have fun and learn on the ice this weekend. Any ice hockey lover from age five to 95 who has a disability that keeps them from being apart of a more intense team is welcome to join. Players, coaches and even spectators can get involved in this awesome opportunity to come together in a fun, learning and therapeutic environment.

Connected with the American Special Hockey Association, the idea to start up a team in Happy Valley was pursued by Brian Damiani, Regional Director for ASHA. Damiani created the Bucks County Admirals, a special hockey team in Bucks County, PA. It was intended for his son with special needs, after seeing how much enjoyment his other son, Ian, got out of playing hockey.

Now a freshman at Penn State, Ian Damiani is on board with his dad’s suggestion for a team right here in Lion Country, joining it himself as one of the head coaches. “[My dad and I] love the fact that we are giving these special needs kids the opportunity to play hockey and enjoy it just as much as we do,” he said.

Not only will those with special needs have fun, learn valuable skills and connect with their players and coaches, it will bring a community together in a positive and team-oriented atmosphere.

Cindy Wolf, the chairperson and organizer for State College’s new hockey team, says that hockey has affected her family in a positive way. Living in Virginia several years ago, two of Wolf’s kids participated on a Special Hockey team. “They grew in awareness of team skills and interacting with other people,” she explained. “My oldest learned patience and teamwork on defense; even though it was more boring, he eventually realized to help develop the other players.”

Wolf has been working hard for ten years now in Centre County to start up a team like the one her two children, who are disabled, played on in the past. After receiving grant money, donated equipment and facility space at Pegula, Wolf, along with tons of others in our community, are more than excited for this new program in Happy Valley.