(PETERBOROUGH) Win, lose or draw, the final score isn't important.
Players aren't ridiculed for missing a sure goal, blowing defensive coverage or for allowing a soft goal. There are no power-play or penalty-killing units. Equal ice time is a priority and statistics aren't recorded.
The Kawartha Komets special needs hockey team play because they love the game.
"They are like every other kid and want to be like the NHL guys," explains Komets coach Brad Bateman.
Bateman says he's coached kids that were extremely talented but didn't have half the heart of the Komets players.
"I coach other sports, but the great thing about these guys is they have such big hearts. Even for them to get out on the ice and to get their equipment on is a big challenge," he explains.
Batemen's son Colin Gillis-Bateman blocks shots for the Komets. Colin had a stroke shortly after birth.
"They basically told us he would never walk. They told us the chances of him doing anything normal were pretty slim," explains Bateman.
The caused limited use of his right hand, which in return forces the 11 year old to play goalie without a stick. Mr Bateman and Ralph Beavis, of Nash Sports, customized a blocker this year, so Colin could hold a stick, but the netminder found it easier to go without.
"When he was a little kid he always played road hockey without a stick and did really well," says Bateman.
"It did work a little bit for him, but Colin found it was harder for him to play with the stick because he never really did play with the stick."
Bateman says most parents on the team will tell you the same story. That they thought their child would never play hockey.
"It brings tears to my eyes seeing him do something that we didn't expect him to be able to do," says Judi Clark, mother of 11-year-old Johnathon Clark, a forward with the Komets.
Two years ago Johnathon went to school feeling fine, but came home with a serve headache. A CAT scan revealed he had a dermoid cyst.
"My heart sank to my toes. It was devastating," says Ms Clark.
Johnathon also has cranial nerve cerebral palsy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
"He has trouble learning and interacting with kids his own age," explains Ms Clark.
"It (hockey) has brought up his self esteem and it gives him something to look forward to."
Johnathon scored his first hat trick this year.
"It is fun and a great sport that brings people together," says Johnathon.
"I enjoy meeting new people and actually getting to play with them."
Cheryl Stephens says her son Travis Harren didn't have a lot of friends his own age until he joined the Komets. Ms Stephens home schools her son, who developed hydrocephalus, an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain, when he was six weeks old. At the age of six he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
"I run a daycare, so he knows younger kids very well and he knows adults very well, but he doesn't know teenagers. With hockey he is out with teenagers. Some of them are younger but they are his developmental age, so he fits in," explains Ms Stephens.
Carol Fisher says parents put their children in this program for the social aspect.
"As children with challenges get older the gaps get bigger and they start to experience loneliness and depression," explains Ms Fisher.
"This is a whole new avenue for them to connect with people, which I think is a bigger part of it than the actual hockey."
Carol and her husband David founded the Komets in 2009/10 and iced 22 skaters. The Komets grew to 34 players this year, but Ms Fisher says their job isn't done, as they wish to expand and include more people that have developmental issues such as players with Down Syndrome.
"We haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg," she explains.
The Komets wrap up their season at the end of April when they charter a bus to Boston to participate in the annual Special Hockey International Tournment. If you know someone that wants to join the Komets next season or are interested in sponsoring the boys' trip to Boston, Carol or David can be reached at 705-750-0655.
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