Lacombe area resident Dustin Butterfield is thrilled to be on Team Canada for the 2022 Canadian vs. USA Blind Ice Hockey Series this weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
His passion for all things hockey was sparked early on.
“I played minor hockey from about the age of five or six until I was 11,” said Butterfield, who has a genetic eye disease which has left him partially sighted with some peripheral vision.
Raised in Stettler County, he launched into rodeo for a time during his youth, but hockey was never off the radar. In 2017, he made a key connection - he attended a dinner for Fighting Blindness Canada in Edmonton, and met a couple of guys who played on a blind hockey team there.
“Before that, I hadn’t even heard of such a thing - I had no idea about the noisy medal puck,” he added with a laugh.
Later that fall, he took part in a Leduc blind hockey tournament. Two games into that, he was absolutely hooked, he said.
“Ever since, I don’t think I’ve missed an event,” said Butterfield, who now lives on an acreage east of Lacombe with his family. “I’ve been to Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax multiple times for tournaments and various things.”
According to Canadian Blind Hockey, “The sport uses some modified rules and equipment, most notably the adapted puck that makes noise and is larger than a traditional puck. At the recreational level, all athletes must be visually impaired, while at the competitive level all players must be classified as legally blind, which is defined as having approximately ten percent vision or less.”
Another difference from regular hockey is that the nets are slightly lower, too. But really, there are very few differences, he explained. “It has all of the same rules, with just a few adaptations.”
A few years ago, Butterfield took part in a video called Our Community, Blind Hockey. It’s a compelling look from AMI: Accessible Media Inc., into the sport and he was very pleased to be a part of it. It also explores what the team ‘Central Alberta Bullseye Blind Hockey’ - which Butterfield created and currently facilitates - is all about.
Meanwhile, he can’t wait to don his Canadian jersey and hit the ice this weekend.
“It will be a lot of fun, but it’s serious, too,” he said, adding that the players are expected to adhere to a high degree of professionalism throughout the event. But mostly, it will just be a blast to be in such a charged and exciting environment. “I’m looking forward to the experience and being with those teammates again.”
As to the sport in general, Butterfield wants more potential members to seriously consider giving it a try.
And that’s really part of the mission of the Central Alberta Bullseye Blind Hockey team. There’s nothing like the sheer camaraderie that being part of this group brings, he added.
“The ‘people factor’ is a big thing,” he said. “You meet all of these people who are having challenges - some similar to yours and some different. It’s amazing to meet them and to hear all of their stories.”
He also finds tremendous fulfillment through his role with the team.
“It’s about the excitement of the great game of hockey. You’re on a team, you are playing - and there is so much about it (to improve) your physical and mental health, too.
“Come and try it - you might think it’s the greatest thing on the planet!”
Fans can check out this weekend’s games on the Canadian Blind Hockey Youtube channel.
To watch the games ‘live’, head to CanadianBlindHockey.com.