Hockey Makes Me Happy – Jesse’s story

Jesse never thought he could play hockey.

As a quiet, shy, 12 year old boy with low vision, Jesse would spend more time playing video games than playing sports or spending time outside. According to Jesse, “there are not many sports that kids with low vision can play safely or many opportunities available to play adapted sports in Ottawa”.

Over the years, Jesse has participated in Learn to Skate days at TD Place with his school, but he seldom left the safety of the boards. Everything changed in 2018 when Jesse was paired with Ottawa 67s Mitch Hoelscher for the annual school skate day. When Jesse’s mom returned to pick him up that day, she found the two of them on the ice building little snowmen!

It is hard to miss the giant smile on Jesse’s face when you ask him about Mitch. The connection formed between the two of them that day gave Jesse the confidence to try new things. And having someone to trust on the ice (who is not mom) helped him find his skating legs.

So when the Ottawa 67s Canadian Blind Hockey Program powered by OSEG Foundation came to Ottawa this winter for the first time, Jesse called on his new confidence and found the courage to join the program. His goal was simply to learn the basics: skating and puck handling skills.

On day one of the program Jesse was still crawling over to the boards every time he fell down. It was a big struggle to get back up. But with the help and persistence of his amazing coaches, by the last lesson he was skating around with the puck. No falls. He never gave up.

The Blind Hockey Program gave Jesse something physical to look forward to doing every weekend. The program also gave Jesse the motivation to let go of mom’s hand and take steps towards independence in a safe and positive environment. For mom, seeing Jesse out on the ice, smiling, trying new things and persevering made her smile.

Now, Jesse and his family cannot wait to see what next season brings. They hope that word about the program will get out and more kids with low vision will join their hockey family. As he waits for next season and the end of COVID-19, Jesse is spending more time outside, going for long walks and learning how to roller blade.

To say hockey makes Jesse happy, is an understatement. Thanks to you and your generous support, he is just getting started in learning first hand about the life changing power of sports.