Adaptive hockey team comes to Rochester

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(ABC 6 News) – There’s a new hockey team in Rochester, the Rochester Kodiaks. It’s part of the Minnesota Special Hockey League.

Minnesota Special Hockey has had teams throughout the state for many years but this is the first year that Rochester has ever had its own team.

"This is actually my first season. It’s definitely enjoyable to say the least," Quinn Schneider, a member of the Rochester Kodiaks, said.

The team is open to all ability levels. Some are learning how to skate while others are sharpening up their shooting skills.

"This is my first year so I’m just trying to get the hang of the skating process of it," Chaz Morris said.

"You don’t have to be good at anything just like try your best and you don’t get in trouble or anything," another player on the team, Hope Thomas, said.

The team has ten players right now ranging from five years old to 50 and they are looking to grow.

"It’s nice seeing younger generations like newbies, little kids from six years old out there learning how to skate. It’s a lifelong thing that we are doing here," Tim Karpas, one of the older members on the team, said.

Some are even learning lifelong lessons on the ice.

"I’ve learned that even if you fall down, you just get right back up and you go again," Morris said.

While others are living out their dreams of playing hockey.

"It’s kind of amazing because it was my dream to play hockey and it’s finally happening," Thomas said.

Parents are happy about the opportunity for their kids.

"Glad to have a team like this in town," Eric Kronebusch said. He has a five-year-old daughter, Josie, on the team.

"We love the ability to have an adaptive team that she can join and learn how to skate and stuff like that," he said. "They grab her and take her on a chair. When they did the scrimmage today and she shot a goal and was all smiles."

Part of Minnesota Special Hockey is getting the community involved. This year the team in Rochester has volunteer players from Rochester Grizzlies and Century Panthers hockey teams to help out with coaching.

"It’s fun to see how rewarding it is not only for our players and the Special Hockey Team but also the players who are coming to us from the Grizzlies or the Panthers or elsewhere in the community. It’s rewarding for all who are involved," head coach Colin Thomas said.

Thomas is a special education teacher at Mayo High School and he says this team is not about wins or losses.

"It’s all about making it fun for players who are out there. Giving them an experience of being part of a team and being able to get out there and just enjoy the game of hockey and no matter what ability level that they’re at, for them to get out there and skate and see a smile on their face when they put the puck in the net or something like that. It’s a different level of hockey that brings joy that can’t be compared to other levels of hockey," Thomas said.

The Rochester Kodiaks practice on Sundays at the Rochester Recreation Center and their first game is on Sunday, Jan 16 against Woodbury at the Rec Center.

To learn more about how to join the team, click here.