Ice Owls

Ice Owls logo

The Ice Owls are a Toronto-based hockey team formed in 1972 by two Metropolitan Toronto Hockey League (MTHL) (now the Greater Toronto Hockey League or GTHL) coaches who wanted to provide a recreational outlet for people living with vision loss. The team is made up of 15 to 20 people who have varying degrees of vision loss and a few sighted players. The season lasts from the first weekend after Thanksgiving to the first weekend in April, with games being played against sighted teams at least once a week.

The Ice Owls are always looking for new players to become a part of their team. Former team president Ed Parrenteau, who has been a member of the Ice Owls since 1981, says one of the best parts of being an Ice Owl is watching and working with the new guys, seeing them grow and gain confidence. After practice and games, they often go out for a beer, talk about the game and bond as a team – a custom for so many other hockey teams throughout Canada.

The Game

Over the years, their style of game has evolved from a non-contact scrimmage to a semi-contact game similar to what their sighted competitors play. However, a few rule changes and modifications were needed.

The Puck

The Ice Owls play a style of hockey that relies on sound to determine where the players and the puck are. This is especially important for the goaltenders who are often completely blind. To play by sound, the hockey puck has been substituted for a thick plastic wheel about six inches wide that is filled with piano pins, causing the puck to rattle when it is hit across the ice.

The Rules

The Ice Owls play under the same rules as the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association except for a few changes:

  • No slap shots.
  • In order for a goal to count, the puck must not be hit into the goal higher then three feet off the ice. If it is, the goal does not count and face offs are taken in the circles to the left or right of the goaltender.
  • Putting the stick on the puck is considered unsportsmanlike conduct since this does not allow the puck to rattle.
  • All high-sticking calls are called as five minute majors.

Community Involvement

The Ice Owls have been known for their community involvement since 1983 and play benefit games for organizations and communities worldwide. In the past few years they have played benefit games for the Ronald McDonald House, Cystic Fibrosis, Emily Stowe Shelter for Battered Women, the Children’s Wish Foundation and many more. Ed Parrenteau hopes that benefit games not only support the causes and organizations they are playing for, but also motivate people to form teams like the Ice Owls in their communities.

A few years ago there was a man who joined the team who had lost his sight in an accident at the age of 55. When he began to play with the Ice Owls he was quiet and withdrawn. After playing in his first benefit game people started to come up to him to thank him for his help and for supporting their cause. This made the man feel important because they were doing something that had an impact on other people’s lives. After that day there was a change in him, he became more outgoing and a vital part of the team.

Ed Parrenteau says that playing benefit games is what has the most impact on the players. Playing for a cause and making a difference in peoples lives makes the players feel useful and of value to society.

For more information about the Ice Owls, please visit www.iceowls.ca.