Created in 2000 for players with develop­mental disa­bilities, the Amer­ican Special Hockey Assoc­iation (ASHA) gives people of all ages and abilities a chance to learn and grow by playing hockey. There are currently over 50 ASHA programs in more than 30 cities through­out the United States. Follow special hockey on Twitter and Facebook.

The Devils Skate With ASHA for Charity on Special Hockey Day

NJ Devils donated $2,500 to the American Special Hockey Association for the NHL Centennial Celebration.

Story by Jeff Moeller of NY Sports Day
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NEWARK – When he took to the ice, Bruce Driver spent a few moments to a youngster.

Driver was later visibly touched when another skater was ecstatic to see him, as Driver was his long-time idol.

It proved to be a night in which skills were plentiful, but fun and camaraderie dominated the night at the Prudential Center.

Driver was among a group of former players who participated in the third annual Special Hockey Day, an event in which more than 100 skaters with special needs and their families. The players represented six teams from the American Special Hockey Association along with a team from Special Olympics of New Jersey throughout Bergen, Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Ocean, and Sussex counties.

Three sessions, each having two teams staying in their own ends, were an hour apiece. Along with skating and shooting on the net, skaters undertook the challenge of jumping over and skating around pylons scattered in their zone.

“For these kids with the disabilities that they have, this is fun night of hockey,” said Driver, who sported his number 23 jersey who wore for 12 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Devils. “This is great.

“We decided to move it onto this big ice. Most of these kids cheer for the Devils and what can be better to be on the same ice that your heroes are playing on.”

Jason Grasso of Woodbridge was nearly speechless when he saw Driver on the ice. Grasso, ironically being the same age (23) as Driver’s jersey, didn’t see Driver play in person, but has watched him on film.

“This is crazy,” said Grasso, who was emotional when asked about seeing Driver in person. “I am just so happy to be here.”

Driver, who is president of the Devils’ Alumni Association, envisions further involvement and development of other programs in the future.

“As alumni, this is something that we do want to get involved with,” added Driver. “This is a great opportunity for these kids and they compete against each other, too. They are not only friends, but they also know who they are playing against.”

Grant Marshall, who spent three seasons with the Devils during 14-year career and also work for the team’s alumni association, cherished his time with the players.

“This is really what it is all about,” said Marshall. “To put everything else aside and just see their faces is great. As big as New Jersey is, it is a small hockey world. We all want to come together.

“One boy asked me if my name was really Grant Marshall. I just had to laugh. I basically live in my car and drive all over with the alumni association. But something like this is well worth it.

“We’re all kids at heart. It is a true testament to the kids that they really want to learn and they are also having fun. The coaches deserve a lot of credit because they are teaching them the right way. There are no rules, and they are just going out and playing the game.”

Gateway Locomotives experience being Blues for a day


Program for players with disabilities will be rebranded as the Blues Special Hockey Club

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues


St. Louis- A foghorn blares, the organist plays “When the Blues Go Marchin’ In” from the upper bowl and the public address announcer Tom Calhoun’s voice carries over the loud speaker as fans cheer from the stands and players celebrate on the ice.

That was the scene at Scottrade Center on Sunday afternoon, except the St. Louis Blues weren’t on the ice for any of it.

Instead, it was the Gateway Locomotives – a group of developmentally-challenged hockey players – who got to experience what it felt like to be a Blue for a day.

The Locomotives arrived at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall thinking they were there for their weekly practice, but instead were introduced to Blues legend Bob Plager, who told them they would be taking a bus to Scottrade Center to experience what being a Blue was like.

When their bus arrived downtown, the team was greeted by former Blue Kelly Chase, who helped get ice time for the Locomotives at Brentwood Ice Rink when the program was created in 1994, Chase led the players to the locker room, where Blues forward Robby Fabbri was waiting to show them around and give them their new jerseys, which featured a new team name and a new logo: the Blues Special Hockey Club.

But the best was still to come.

After suiting up, the team took the ice for a game at Scottrade Center in front of more than a thousand fans who cheered them on from the stands.

One of the (kids) turned around and said she was living the dream, “said Jim Hermann, who serves as the administrator for the Gateway Locomotives and has been with the organization since its inception in 1994. “That’s what this is. For the Blues to treat these kids the way they were treated today, that’s something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

“When we started talking about doing this, my expectations were the Blues would just allow us to use their name. We would even buy our own jerseys and create our own logo,” Hermann added. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think the Blues would do what they did today. It’s outstanding. It goes to show you what class this whole organization has from top to bottom.”

While the Locomotives got to experience what it felt like to be a Blue for a day, they’re actually now the Blues for good. With the team being renamed and rebranded, the club will now represent the St. Louis Blues in tournaments for disabled athletes.

The locomotives actually began 23 years ago when Tony Sansone Jr. learned of a disabled hockey team that was competing in Toronto. Sansone and his wife brought that idea to St. Louis, establishing the Gateway Locomotives as the first hockey team in the United States for the developmentally-challenged. The organization currently serves 45 players, including some from the original rooster. Many have been diagnosed with autism or down syndrome. Now, 60 clubs similar to the Gateway Locomotives exist across the country.

“I have seven healthy children, and not withstanding that, I have all healthy nieces and nephews, just blessings beyond what anyone would expect to experience, “ said Sansone. “We wanted to give something back more than just from a monetary standpoint, but with our time and energy. All my kids are involved, and this is a really special (organization) to my family.”

“The Blues, under the leadership of Tom Stillman and his ownership group, showed everyone what they’re all about,” Sansone said of Sunday’s event. “they’re local people that understand how important it is to be part of the landscape. They’ve certainly showed that with everything they’ve done, but more in particular with what they have done today. Words can’t describe the value they bring. Just look at what they’ve done from an inspirational standpoint for all of our athletes and their families. 

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ASHA Executive Committee will oversee planning, fundraising, and partnerships to continue ASHA’s growth The American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) has announced a new organizational structure that will allow ASHA to continue its growth so more children can benefit from its programs across the country. A new ASHA Executive Committee will be responsible for all strategic planning, fundraising, and partnerships and will assist the Board of Directors in implementing programs and tactics. The

Executive Committee includes:

Chairman of the Board – Mike Hickey, ASHA founder and current president • 

President – Dave Chase, current executive director and co-founder of the SNAP Flyers Special Hockey Club in Valencia, Calif. v•

Executve Director – Jennifer O’Brien, a disability advocate and entrepreneur and a volunteer with the special hockey program in Binghamton, N.Y.

Hickey, who founded the Washington Ice Dogs and ASHA in 1999, said, “I have full confidence in Dave and Jen as we realign our leadership to meet the needs of special hockey programs across the country.

As ASHA has grown over the past decade, we needed to re-think our structure to meet today’s needs and plan for continued growth into the future.”

Chase said, “This new strategic management team will allow ASHA to continue to provide the very best in special hockey programming from coast to coast. I am really excited about the collective impact this dynamic group will bring to an already successful organization, and I’m humbled by the responsibility we have to our 2,000+ athletes and their families.”

O’Brien added, “As ASHA continues to positively impact individuals with special needs across the country by increasing accessibility to the great sport of hockey, this expansion our leadership team will help meet the diverse and growing needs of over 60 teams across the country. This structure builds upon our solid foundation and poises ASHA to improve and further expand our programs.

Executive Committee Bios

Mike Hickey formed the Washington Ice Dogs and the American Special Hockey Association in 1999 to create opportunities for children and young adults with developmental disabilities to play hockey at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md. Under his leadership, ASHA has grown into a national organization with more than 60 programs in 30 cities, and more than 2,000 athletes. In addition to serving more children in more areas, ASHA has attracted support from corporations, community partners, and professional athletes, coaches, and staff.

Dave Chase began his career in nonprofit work as a Special Olympics coach in 2007. Having a deep background in event management, he began to manage several major fundraising events in Santa Clarita, Calif., area. In March 2012, he co-founded the Valencia SNAP Flyers Special Hockey Club, and in October 2014 he co-founded SNAP Sports, a nonprofit offering sports commonly thought to be out of the reach of special needs athletes. In addition to his position with SNAP Sports, Chase has served as the Executive Director of the American Special Hockey Association since 2015.

Jennifer O’Brien is the founding executive director of Life is Washable, Inc. (The Magic Paintbrush Project). She leads a team that serves individuals with special needs and their supporting community of caregivers from family members to agencies. Since its inception, Life Is Washable, Inc. has served over 46,000 session participants in their creative family and caregiver engagement programming. She has also developed other innovative programs such as “Friendly Access Safety Kits” and “Fair Play” adaptive sports. She recently served as project coordinator for the largest fully accessible playground in New York State.

About the American Special Hockey Association Created in 2000 for players with developmental disabilities, the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) gives people of all ages and abilities a chance to learn and grow by playing hockey. There are currently over 60 ASHA programs in more than 30 cities throughout the United States. Learn more at

The Cleveland Rockin' Wildcats are featured in Parenting Special Needs Magazine

The Cleveland Rockin' Wildcats are featured in the January/February issue of Parenting Special Needs Magazine.

Click on the following link to get the story on the Wildcats: