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Turning from a fan to a player

Taryn Mikjaniec is a big hockey fan. Her favourite teams are the Elmira Sugar King and Kitchener Rangers, and her favourite player is Sidney Crosby. The 25-year-old Elmira resident also suffers from Rett Syndrome, which has made it almost impossible for Taryn to get involved in the sport beyond being just a spectator.

Rett Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by normal childhood growth and development, but followed by the slowing of development, slowed brain and head growth and intellectual disabilities. People with the condition also exhibit autistic-like behaviour.

“She loves hockey. She’s liked hockey forever. I have two older sons and they never wanted to go to a Ranger game or a hockey rink,” said Taryn’s mother Sandy. “She’s been into hockey since she was little, but there’s never been a hockey team around for her.”

That changed about 18 months ago when Sandy learned about the Cambridge Ice Hounds, a hockey program run in partnership with the City of Cambridge and Special Hockey International that provides adults and children with developmental needs the ability to participate in hockey programs just like any other person.

SHI started back in 1970 in North York and features modified hockey rules. According to the organizations website there are no age groups or tryouts, and participants will learn how to hold a stick, how to skate, how to handle the puck and how to take a shot. There is also no icing, no offside and no body checking.

Taryn is enrolled in the junior learn to skate program with the Ice Hounds, and the team is one of 13 Special Hockey International clubs in southern Ontario.

The family had the experience of a lifetime last month when Taryn and 18 of her Ice Hounds teammates participated in the 18th annual Special Hockey International Tournament from Apr. 12-20 in London, England. It was Taryn’s first time on an airplane and her first time overseas, milestones she won’t soon forget.

The team played four games spread out over two days, and had the chance to travel around and see the sights during the rest of their trip.

“We saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, we went to Stonehenge, Hampton Court, and Westminster Abbey, and the Princess Diana memorial in Hyde Park,” said Sandy.
“Taryn adapted well to the travel, but it killed me with all the luggage and lugging the hockey bags,” she added with a laugh.

All the players received medals for the participation in the tournament, as well. Kitchener is set to host the next Special Hockey International tournament in next April, and Sandy said they’re expecting anywhere from 70 to 80 teams to attend from Canada, the United States, and the UK.

Given the growth of the organization around the world and right here in southern Ontario, she hopes Elmira could find a way to create a team of their own. She said there would likely be enough players to draw from in the hockey-mad community.

“It would be nice if they had one in Elmira at the new arena. They have a sledge hockey team here so maybe they just don’t know about it, and they would likely have enough for a small team just to get them started.”
For more information visit www.specialhockeyinternational.org or www.cambridgeicehounds.com.

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