Ringing in the New Year at the 2019 Winter Classic

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics Movement and for the first time ever, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have invited Special Olympics floor hockey teams to participate in the annual NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Athletes from Massachusetts and Illinois will partner with Bruins and Blackhawks alumni to compete in a Unified Floor Hockey exhibition at the Joyce Center on the Campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Special Olympics Massachusetts will be represented by eight athletes from the Belmont/Watertown S.P.O.R.T program. Special Olympics Illinois will be represented by athletes from Welles Park and Piotrowski Park.

Special Olympics Massachusetts athletes competing at Winter Classic: 

Belmont/Watertown SPORT floor hockey team (Bottom row left to right) Kurt Schemmel, Danny Miller, Justin Oates (Top row center) Ashley Connelly, Ronnie Thebado, Paul Farrell (Far right with hat) Noel Heath. Not pictured – Sam Fisher

Noel Heath has been a Special Olympics athlete for five years. He plays or has played softball, soccer and basketball and floor hockey. He has played floor hockey for 4 years. Noel loves hockey and is a huge fan of the Bruins and the Boston College Eagles. He was recently recognized at a Bruins game as part of the Bruins Foundation’s partnership with Special Olympics Massachusetts.

William “Ashley” Connelly has been involved with Special Olympic Massachusetts for about 30 years. During that time he has been involved in swimming, bowling, basketball, golf, floor hockey, softball, soccer,  tennis, flag football, track and field, but had to stop playing tennis, flag football and track & field because he was so busy. Ashley has been playing floor hockey somewhere for close 20 years. He swam in the 1999 World Games in North Carolina and at USA Games in 2014 in New Jersey. In 2014 he was inducted into the Special Olympics Massachusetts Hall of Fame.

Justin Oates turned 50 this year as did Special Olympics Massachusetts. Justin has been involved with Special Olympics for more than 40 years. He has participated in two World Games, aquatics in Minnesota and floor hockey in Austria. He has been playing floor hockey for 30 years. He went to an invitational in San Diego twice for floor hockey. When speaking with his mom she said that Special Olympics has given Justin the best thing: LONG time friendships and support from other athletes as well as coaches/unified partners.

Danny Miller he has been involved with Special Olympics Massachusetts for 40 years. He has participated in swimming, floor hockey, tennis, bowling, softball, soccer, track and field and flag football. He has been playing floor hockey for 30 years and has traveled to San Diego twice to compete in floor hockey. Danny had a fear of water until he got involved with Special Olympics. He then took to water like a duck and even swam at World Games in New Haven, Connecticut in 1995.

Paul Farrell has been playing floor hockey for 5 years. Paul has season tickets to the Boston College Eagles and only recently gave up his season tickets to the Bruins. His family recently said they tried to tally up the number of hockey games he has been to they lost track somewhere around 700! Paul has always been social and friendly, but Special Olympics has given him a greater sense of self-confidence and self-worth that only comes from being part of a team. He loves his teammates and looks forward to the start of the season every year.

Kurt Schemmel has been involved with Special Olympics for 37 years. He has been playing floor hockey for almost 30 years. Over the years Kurt has participated in cycling, alpine skiing, golf and volleyball. Kurt went to two World Games for Alpine Skiing in Tahoe and Soccer in North Carolina.

Ronnie Thebado has been playing floor hockey for close to 30 years. Ronnie loves flag football and floor hockey and has also played softball in the past. His dad was one of the Belmont/Watertown SPORT program floor hockey coaches until his passing last year. It was hard for Ronnie to come back to floor hockey because of his father’s passing, but he was able to overcome that with support from all his teammates and other coaches. One of the coaches had a special patch made with “Coach T” for their uniforms.

Sam Fisher-has been involved with Special Olympics for 30 years. Sam has participated in floor hockey, softball, cycling, flag football, swimming, powerlifting, alpine skiing and Nordic skiing and basketball. He attend the World Games in Ireland for Cycling.

About the Bruins Foundation Partnership with Special Olympics Massachusetts

On August 28, 2018, the Boston Bruins announced an unprecedented partnership with Special Olympics Massachusetts including a $1 million donation over three years. This marked the largest donation by the Boston Bruins Foundation to date. In addition to the $1 million, the Bruins Foundation and Special Olympics Massachusetts will join forces to involve Special Olympics athletes in a variety of initiatives to promote inclusion and health and wellness.

To date, the partnership has involved Special Olympics athletes in a number of high-level Bruins initiatives including the Annual Boston Bruins Foundation Charity Golf tournament, the Boston Bruins Home Opener at TD Garden, the annual Boston Bruins Foundation Gala, and the Pucks & Pups Calendar.

In addition to highlighting and honoring Special Olympics athletes throughout the hockey season, the Bruins and Special Olympics Massachusetts will work together to educate fans on the impressive work that Special Olympics Massachusetts is doing in the community, and most importantly, the incredible talent and determination demonstrated by the athletes.

About Special Olympics Massachusetts

Special Olympics Massachusetts provides year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programming for nearly 13,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities across the state in over 295 sporting competitions each year. Through the power of sport, the Special Olympics movement transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

About Special Olympics Illinois

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 18 sports for more than 23,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to realize their full potential in sports and in life. Special Olympics programs enhance physical fitness, motor skills, self-confidence, social skills and encourage family and community support.

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