The Sun Rays special hockey team held their home-opener game Saturday afternoon against the Guelph Giants, and though they ultimately fell to the stiff competition, the young team showed plenty of heart.
It’s only the Sun Rays’ third season, after all, and the team is still learning the ropes. For 11-year-old Joshua Stoermer, he is sure all the team needs is a bit more ice time for them find their stride.
“I feel we did OK because Guelph had some pretty good players,” he said about Saturday’s game. “But I feel that with some more practice and years we can get to the same skill level as them.”
Joshua has been with the Sun Rays for the past two years. When he started, his mother Kerri Stoermer adds, he did not know how to skate. Now the center is gliding across the ice with the rest of them.
“I find it fun that we have a chance to play hockey and play games and stuff, where normally I wouldn’t be good enough to play regular hockey,” said Joshua. “So, that I can be able to play hockey and have fun with the team.”
“They’re amazing with their volunteers and their coaching,” added his mother of the organization. “I don’t even know what to say – they are amazing with special needs.
“It allowed him to play a sport that he loves,” she said. “With this opportunity, he has something to call his own.”
The special hockey league aims to be inclusive, and on Saturday the sense of camaraderie and cooperation was palpable. Not just amongst the Sun Ray players, but even between the two teams as players on both sides worked together to ensure everyone had a good time.
At one point, all the players and the volunteers even came together to assist one smaller Sun Ray, who was moving a little slower on the ice than some of the other players, to score a goal for the team. It’s a level of sportsmanship not always seen in other leagues.
“This is the second year I’ve been coaching [the Sun Rays],” said coach Rick Moser after the game. “I’ve coached probably 30 years in Woolwich Minor Hockey … and this is probably the most fun I’ve had.”
The players are certainly having fun as well. Next Saturday, the Sun Rays will welcoming a special hockey team from Bruce-Grey area to Elmira for a match, and Joshua is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I always like playing games.”
The game will be on November 18 from 11 a.m. to noon, and Sun Ray president Julie Jamieson recommends everyone to come out and watch.
“Come and see sportsmanship at its best and support your community. Your already diverse and inclusive community has found a way to put special needs hockey in the program of recreation and it’s a great opportunity for folks to come see that and see it live,” she said.