Throughout the hockey world, the phrase “hockey is for everyone” has become a nearly universal motto for the sport.
Recently, the Hendrickson Foundation showed this phrase is more than just a rallying cry as the Minnesota-based organization hosted more than 350 disabled hockey players at the Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine, Minn., for its inaugural Disabled Hockey Festival.
Sled, special and warrior hockey players celebrated the culmination of another successful season while helping to grow disabled hockey around the state.
The organization was founded in 2011 by a group that included longtime Minnesota high school hockey coach Larry Hendrickson. As part of its mission, the foundation decided to put on a tournament to celebrate these players.
“As the foundation has grown, we wanted to give our players the chance to play in a national tournament right here in the State of Hockey,” said Danny Hendrickson, Larry’s son and the tournament coordinator.
For three days, the Hendrickson Foundation provided 24 teams from six states and two countries the chance to get on the ice and participate in this cost-free, season-ending tournament.
Along with the sled, warrior and disabled hockey games, other events helped make the weekend memorable. There was a celebrity game that featured former NHL players such as Darby Hendrickson, David H. Jensen and the three Broten brothers – Aaron, Neal and Paul.
The tournament also included a banquet and appearances by Minnesota Wild forwards Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle.
“It was a welcoming surprise to see the Wild players show up and see the great reaction from our athletes,” Danny said. “The smiles on the players’ faces told the whole story.”
Mike MacMillan, USA Hockey coach-in-chief and Hendrickson Foundation founding board member, helped organize this year’s tournament. He sees this is as a great way to celebrate these athletes and to grow the sport.
“If you’re going to sustain the Hendrickson Foundation, what better way than to have a tournament right here in Minnesota?” MacMillan said. “We want to continue exposing people to this sport.”
The feedback throughout the tournament was all positive, especially from spectators who were experiencing disabled hockey for the first time. As for the players, they loved being able to end their seasons on such a high note.
“One thing the Hendrickson family and their foundation excels at is making everyone feel like they’re the most special person in the world,” said Susie Miller, the founder of Minnesota Special Hockey. “Every player felt special and important.”