By Todd Vandonk, Sportswriter, Peterborough This Week
The sight was enough to make cry.
He had never been picked for a team before.
But that didn't matter this day. Nor did the fact he has Asperger's Syndrome.
No experience was necessary. There were no tryouts to worry about. Age and sex were irrelevant.
You didn't even have know how to skate.
And when Carol Fisher saw her 13-year-old son Matthew sporting a hockey jersey for the first time, well the sight was enough to make her cry.
It was a dream come true.
Because, if you wanted to play in the Special Hockey International (SHI) league, all you needed was the one thing Matthew had - passion.
His interest in hockey grew through playing hockey on the X-Box.
He tried sledge hockey with the Peterborough Blazers. It wasn't for him. He wanted to skate. He wanted to score goals like his cousin and Ottawa Senator forward Mike Fisher. He wanted stop pucks like his cousin Greg Fisher with Quinnipiac University.
Note from the Fishers: Regarding the Blazers, Matthew enjoyed playing with the sledge hockey team but he wanted to skate and play hockey like the players on his X-Box game.
And, three years ago, he got that opportunity when he played his first game with SHI's Don Mills Diamonds.
"I have seen him come a million miles," mother says about her son.
"People have said that kids with Asperger's Syndrome aren't team players but he has proven them wrong."
Matthew also has become more social, and confident since joining the league.
Mrs. Fisher wants other special needs kids to have the same opportunities as her son. Backed by Five Counties Children's Centre, the Peterborough Community Church Hockey League and MPP Jeff Leal, Mrs. Fisher and her husband David are launching the Kawartha Komets. The team will play in the SHI.
"A lot of parents with special needs children don't put their kids into organized sports," explains Mrs. Fisher.
"It's a great opportunity for the kids to shine."
The league features 25 teams across Canada and 60 in the U.S. Players develop skating, passing and shooting skills. But most importantly they're playing.
"Some learn by the end of their first year, while others take years," explains Mrs. Fisher. "As long as they can stand on skates they can play."
On Saturday (April 2), Matthew's current team, the Don Mills Diamonds, will host the Durham Dragons at the Memorial Centre in a demonstration game. Game time is 6:30 p.m. There will be a booth set up at the rink with registration information available. You can also call Mrs. Fisher, 750-0655.
Here's the 2nd article, The Sky's the Limit with Komets, written by Greg Davis, Sports Editor, which appeared in the Peterborough Examiner on Wednesday:
Tears of joy flowed down Carol Fisher's face the day her son Matthew first donned a hockey jersey and stepped onto the ice.
And now the proud Peterborough mother wants other parents of special-needs youth to share in that emotion.
Matthew, now 13, is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that causes significant difficulties in social interaction and behaviour. His mother says he never had an interest in hockey until learning about the sport through a video game. He then had aspirations of becoming a star like his cousins, forward Mike Fisher of the NHL's Ottawa Senators and goalie Greg (Bud) Fisher with Quinnipiac University.
Choices are limited in Peterborough when it comes to hockey for special-needs youth. Carol explored the Kawartha Blazers Sledge Hockey League and the Peterborough Community Church Hockey League, both of which offered support.
However, she wanted her son to be on a more level playing field.
Her search extended online where she discovered a Sunday league in Oshawa (the Durham Dragons Special Hockey) and a Saturday league in the Toronto area (the Don Mills Diamonds), both part of Special Hockey International.
Special Hockey International, featuring 25 teams across Canada and 60 in the U. S., provides hockey for male and female players who wouldn't have the opportunity to play on a regular team due to neurological and/or developmental challenges such as autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Down Syndrome and ADHD.
The goal of Special Hockey International is simple: To enhance a player's gross motor skills, social skills, confidence and the ability to play the game.
"I just lost it," said Fisher recalling Matthew's first day on ice with the Diamonds. "This was a dream come true for me. It's very difficult for a parent with a child with challenges because the day your child is diagnosed, some of your dreams die."
With the support and endorsement of the PCCHL, MPP Jeff Leal and Five Counties Children's Centre, Fisher is creating a special-needs team for local youth called the Kawartha Komets which will play under Special Hockey International.
The Komets, open for all developmentally challenged youth, will begin this September with practices and games versus other teams under the Special Hockey International umbrella. There's no age limit or experience necessary and the rules are also modified with the elimination of icing, offsides and body checking.
"This is an opportunity for parents to see their kid shine at their own level in whatever way they can," said Fisher.
"It might only be standing in front of a net trying to shoot a puck, but for some kids that's not a reality right now."
Since Matthew began hockey, beginning as a goalie but now playing out of the net to improve his skating, Fisher says his self-esteem has "sky rocketed."
"He is more confident, more social," she said. "He has become more caring, more compassionate towards others and more self-disciplined."
Fisher says her son is challenging his diagnosis.
"They say kids with Asperger's Syndrome aren't team players and Matthew has proven them wrong," she said. "He definitely is a team player. A lot of parents don't put their kids into organized sports because we've been told they're not team players. The sky is the limit with these kids."
This Saturday Fisher is inviting parents and their special-needs youth to visit the Memorial Centre for a demonstration hockey game between the Diamonds and Dragons.
The contest begins at 6:30 p. m. and Fisher will have a booth set up at the arena to provide information on the Komets.
"Most of the kids we'll get in this league have never worn a team jersey of any kind -- they have never been part of a team because no one has ever wanted them to be a part of a team," she said.
"They're always the last kid picked and the first one picked on. This is an opportunity for kids that have never shone to shine."
NOTES: For more information on the Kawartha Komets special-needs hockey team, or to offer services as a volunteer contact Carol Fisher at 750-0655 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.... Carol is the wife of David Fisher, the Hockey Ministries International Chapel Leader for the Peterborough Petes.... Carol says her husband suggested the Komets team name, although originally they were going to choose Peterborough Pythons, but that name was in use by another special-needs team.
What: Free demonstration game of special-needs hockey between the Durham Dragons and Don Mills Diamonds
When: Saturday, 6:30 p. m.
Where: Memorial Centre
Why: Promote the sport for the new Kawartha Komets team in Peterborough
How to join the Komets: Call Carol and David Fisher at 750-0655 or email at email@example.com