Hockey players show disability is no handicap
By Turner Walston
Published in News on October 10, 2005 1:48 PM
They crashed the boards and shot the puck. They faced off and made great saves. And they did it in wheelchairs.
Saturday night, the Carolina Fury PowerHockey team took the floor at Charles B. Aycock High School to face a team of local volunteers who used manual wheelchairs. Proceeds from the game went to help the Fury play in the Power Hockey World Cup in the fall 2006.
Fans were on their feet as the hometown Fury entered the gym to the strains of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." The volunteers never had a chance.
Jonathan Greeson founded the North Carolina Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association in 2003. He said he knew of power hockey in the northern United States, but wanted the chance to play locally.
"I've always wanted to play a sport and never had the opportunity," Greeson said. Hockey was a natural choice, he said, because "it's adaptable to everyone's disability."
Hours of organization and practice paid off when the team hit the floor to the sounds of cheering fans.
"It's the best feeling," he said. "It's something you've always wanted to do, and now it's really happening."
Despite using manual wheelchairs, he said the volunteers gave the Fury a tough match.
The first period of the game ended in a scoreless tie.
Kenny Carnes ended the drought for the Fury, scoring on an assist by Jonathan Greeson early in the second period. The volunteers then answered on a goal by Lance Hauver. Robert Rusch scored the go-ahead goal for the Fury, ending the second period at 2-1.
Richard Huff tied the score for the volunteers in the third period, but goals by Shawn Hessee and Robert Ucciardi secured the game for the Fury.
"When we first started, we were worried about them not really giving us a challenge," Greeson said. "They really played us hard. It's a lot of help to us, because we're getting ready to go to the World Cup."
Shawn Hessee, 26, is a 2001 graduate of East Carolina University, and a Fury team member. Now living in Raleigh, he works as a motivational speaker.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to give people a different view of disability," Hessee said of power hockey.
Jonathan's father, Vance, the Fury's coach, said the team allows the players to compete despite their disability.
"When you give a person a toggle switch, he can do things he physically cannot do," he said.
And teaching others about overcoming limitations is also important, Hessee said.
"Through sports, we can really touch the world, and we can reach out," he said. "And doggone it, it's just fun."
Greeson said he hopes to have more exhibition games before the World Cup next year. For more information on the Carolina Fury, visit the NCEWHA web site at http://www.powerhockey.com/northcarolina/ or by calling 394-0700.
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