Special Needs Hockey Team
Ten years ago, the California Condors became the first ever ice hockey program in California for children and adults with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and learning disabilities, seizures or mild cerebral palsy. Our program is open to individuals with these special needs, of all ages, male or female and at all levels of ability – including those who have never skated before. It provides a unique opportunity for individuals with developmental disabilities to experience the thrills and skills and camaraderie of ice hockey, while developing physical strength and coordination, an appreciation of cooperation and team-work, and enhanced self-confidence and self–esteem.
Our 10th Year Anniversary took place on November 13, 2016
Please click on the link to see our program.
The general public is familiar with the Special Olympics, but hockey is not part of that program. The Condors program is the brainchild of Rita Eagle, whose son was able to play hockey when the family lived in Toronto. Special needs hockey was born in Toronto, about 25 years ago, and in the past 20 years has spread to include more than 75 teams across the United States and Canada. But when Rita and Benjamin arrived in California in 2001, there was no program at all in which Benjamin could continue to play. It took five years to find ice time and a rink willing to take a chance on starting a special needs program here. Thanks to Jocelyn Langlois, the Condors program began with just a handful of players at the Valley Ice Center in Panorama City in 2006. It moved to Iceoplex in Simi Valley in 2014 where it now proudly boasts nearly 30 players, all passionate about playing hockey.
The Condors coaching team is made up of our fabulous volunteer coaches, J.P Guiliotti, Brett Marsh, Ronda Kalan, Steve Kalan, Mike Becker and Michael Van Dyke. The L.A. Kings Chariot program provides one to two assistant coaches at every practice. Finally, excellent teenage hockey players (AA and AAA) – our “kid helpers” -- volunteer to assist the Condors on the ice. It is hard to say who enjoys and benefits more from the experience -- both Condors and kid helpers cannot wait to get on the ice to train and play together.
The Condors program could not have started without the generous donation of equipment by the NHL Players Association distributed through H.E.L.P. (Hockey Equipment Lending Program). H.E.L.P proudly sponsors the Condors, which now operates as a 501c3 not –for-profit organization. The organization is one hundred percent volunteer- powered. It engages in fundraising year round to pay for ice time, gear, recruitment, operating expenses and travel. One hundred percent of all donations go to supporting the team. Low fees paid by parents for each practice also help pay for ice time. Through the generosity of donors in response to our fundraising campaigns, and the active participation in fundraising of families and friends of the Condors, the team has been able to travel out of state and even in Canada (see Condors on the Go!) to play with other special needs teams.
The Condors are members of the American Special Hockey Association, which is comprised of more than 50 teams across United States and Canada. This includes two new teams which, inspired by the Condors, were formed in California within the past three years– one in Santa Clarita, one in San Diego . Four years ago, a family whose two sons had skated for many years with the Condors were also inspired to start a similar program in Pasadena.
The Condors program is dedicated to the enjoyment, skill development and safety of its members. All players must wear full protective gear. All players must be registered with ASHA which provides insurance. Registration with ASHA is free and can be completed on line.
The Condors practice in three sessions, from September through June. Thanks to generous donations from the Wayne Gretzky Foundation in 2013 and 2015, we are able to keep fees down to just $10 for each practice, when the session is paid for in full. For players who plan to participate in less than 60 percent of the practices, the drop in fee is $15 per practice.
October 2009 : Tri-state Tournament (Utah, Colorado and California) in Salt Lake City. Thanks to the generosity of fans, friends and family and Scott Belinsky.
May 2010: Special Hockey International Tournament in Toronto, Canada. Thanks to Kyle Woo for organizing a hugely successful skate-a-thon and to the Kings for participation of Kings hockey celebrities.
May 2011: Tournament in Denver, Colorado
April 2012: Disabled Festival in Dallas, Texas
June 2013: Southern California Special Needs Hockey Tournament, Santa Clarita, CA.
January 2015: UCT Tournament in Santa Clarita, CA.
March 2015: SHI Tournament Ottawa, Ontario, Canada