Pittsburgh 360: Sled Hockey Sensation


– Yeah, it’s a good workout. I mean, I’ve been playing
since I was five years old and I’m almost 20 now. – [Angie] I’m just so proud of him. – [Dave] This is Danny McCoy
shooting on Mark Andre Flurry and we actually had them in a practice. I think he’s going up. – I’ve gained a ton of confidence from it and I couldn’t really
imagine my life not playing sled hockey in some form. – [Narrator] Confidence could
be Danny McCoy’s middle name. He can walk but only short distances. This 19 year old sled hockey
champion uses a wheelchair or crutches most of the time
to get around and he says, “So what.” – I’ve always seen my
disability as being normal. I haven’t really seen myself
any different to anyone else other than the way I move around. But I take it as a badge of honor. – [Narrator] Thankful to
be so talented to be able to suit up with his heavy hockey gear, protective pads and helmet, getting into his custom sled
with skates on the bottom and onto the ice for practice. He’s been doing this
he was five years old, but these days Danny McCoy
practices for a dream come true. We first met Danny when
he was eight years old. – [Coach] Nice play, Danny! – [Narrator] Our own Chris
Moore was doing a story on sled hockey and he interviewed young
eight year old Danny. – [Chris] What is your
goal, what do you wanna do? – I’ll get into the Olympics. – [Narrator] McCoy’s dream has come true. Only 17 sled hockey
players around the nation were chosen to play in the
Paralympics in Sochi, Russia in early March. Danny McCoy is one of them. – I’ve been dreaming since
I was eight years old. To be finally on the team
is a huge honor for me. – [Narrator] Danny was
born with spina bifida. His spine was split. – [Interviewer] You two
are very close, aren’t you? – Yeah.
(chuckling) – [Narrator] His mom
Angie often gets emotional thinking about how proud
she is of this young man. When she was pregnant with Danny, tests showed her unborn
child’s spine was split and she was told to consider an abortion. – In utero, we found out when
I was about 16 weeks along that he had spina bifida, meaning that when the
fetus was developing, the spine didn’t close,
it was actually in two. We had to make a tough
decision because whether or not to carry on with the pregnancy or not, and we decided that we
were gonna have faith and just see what happens. We knew our lives were gonna be different. We didn’t realize how blessed
our lives were gonna be. So, yeah. And so he was born. He went right away, first
day, had two surgeries. They had to relieve pressure on his brain and they had to close his back. But this is how tough this kid was. Every week I was going back
because he was kicking the casts off his feet. – Make sure you really try
to emphasize the grabbing the puck on your blade and rolling
it off the blade like that. – [Narrator] This
paralympian practices daily, but makes time to teach and
inspire the younger kids on the Mighty Penguins,
the local sled hockey team for children with similar
physical disabilities. Danny says this sport has not
only brought him confidence, but it’s built his physical strength. He’s in top upper body shape. He’s one of this country’s
fastest players on the ice. Sled hockey players use half sticks with small blades on the bottom
to dig into the ice and go. – It’s a good upper body workout. I mean, your legs are strapped
in completely to the sled, so you don’t use your legs at all. It’s all core and upper body
and arms and everything, so. It’s a good workout. People, when they first try it out, definitely say the next
day they’re feeling it. – [Interviewer] Obviously
you’re a good player. Is that true? – I would say so.
(laughing) – Soon as he shoots, go. – [Narrator] Ice hockey
is expensive to play. The right equipment can
run nearly $800 dollars let alone costly ice-time at local rinks. Danny McCoy credits
the Pittsburgh Penguins for making sure everyone gets
a chance to enjoy the sport. – The Penguins Foundation
has been a great help for us over the years. Before they showed up, we
have had to pay our own way for everything. It’s been tough in terms of money. Trying to get ice and trying
to get enough funding to travel to these different tournaments
and develop our program, but with the Penguins Foundation’s help over the last few years, they’ve just been extremely
supportive in being able to help our organization and the players improve. – The title of the program
is Hockey is for Everyone. Michael, welcome to the foundation. – Oh, this is great. – [Narrator] The Pittsburgh
Penguins Foundation through various fundraisers
and the generosity of many including two and half
million dollars raised from these Christmas ornaments
crafted from the metal roof of the former civic arena, this foundation has made
sure hockey is for everyone, says President Dave Soltesz. – There’s really three
aspects of what we put under the label of Hockey is for Everyone. The first and most recently
the most pronounced is the Mighty Penguins program.
– There you go. – [Dave] This program deals with kids that basically are disabled
from the waist down. They’re on sleds. The next program we have
at Steel City Icebergs. This particular program
concentrates on kids with some cognitive disabilities, things like down syndrome, autism. Then the last aspect we
have deals with those kids that can’t afford it. It’s called the Pittsburgh ICE Program. Pittsburgh ICE, ICE stands for
inclusion creates equality. In the inner city neighborhoods, there’s kids that can’t
afford to play the sport, so what we do is we
provide them with ice-time, equipment, the instruction,
and everything necessary to be involved and teach them the sport. – Goal! – This is really warms your heart… – [Narrator] Soltesz proudly
shows us the many pictures of the Hockey is for Everyone initiative. – This is the Mighty Penguins, and this was actually a year ago. Each one of the kids on the
team signs it with their name. It hangs prominently in the foundation ’cause we’re proud of it. – [Narrator] The Penguins
even made Danny McCoy honorary captain recently. Soltesz says helping any child
play hockey is a privilege for the Penguins organization, and they’ll be cheering
for Danny McCoy in Sochi. – He learned how to play
hockey here in this program. The program is, for the longest time, was very, very competitive. The crowning jewel is that he
is going to the Paralympics in Sochi, Danny McCoy and
we’re very, very proud that he came out of this program. – [Narrator] Angie McCoy credits the Pens for making dreams come true for hundreds of local hockey players, kids like Danny who inspire all of us. (inspirational music) – [Angie] It’s taught us
a lot about ourselves. – [Interviewer] In terms of what? – In terms of courage, determination, and seriously, perseverance. He never complains. I complain all the time.
(laughing) He never complains. He takes everything in stride,
and I’ll speak for you, but I truly believe he
believes what’s meant to be is meant to be. With everything, he’s just adjusted. – [Interviewer] Are you proud of him? – [Angie] So proud of him. – [Interviewer] Why? – [Angie] He’s just
somebody that I look up to and he’s my kid.
(chuckling) That says a special thing about him. A very humble, genuine kid. – [Narrator] A kid who’s now
headed to the Paralympics with Pittsburgh and a nation
cheering you on, Danny, to bring it home.

Antonio Breitenberg

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