The battle of the birds was on, as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks took on the Special Olympic Road Runners’ floor hockey team on the hard court at the Fruitvale Elementary Gym Tuesday.
The local chapter of the Special Olympics has enabled athletes with disabilities to participate in sports such as swimming, bocce, bowling, skiing and now floor hockey.
The Nitehawks teamed up with the Special Olympics floor-hockey squad early in October and have provided coaching and mentorship for the team of 11 athletes.
“This is our last practice before Christmas and we thought it was a great way to break and the Nitehawks have been awesome.” said Special Olympic organizer and coach Ben Postmus. “The kids have been coming out and the guys that haven’t, couldn’t wait for their turn to come.”
Every Tuesday evening, four Nitehawks help Postmus put the Road Runners through drills and scrimmages at the school gym to prepare for Special Olympic competition.
“I was thrilled with what these guys are doing, and it was good to see some of the competitive edge come out,” said Hawks head coach Terry Jones.
Indeed the game itself was a thriller, as the teams played to a 9-9 draw; it all came down to a sudden death shoot out.
After the first shooters failed to score, Nitehawks forward Tyler Collins was also stoned by stalwart netminder Stuart “the wall” Hawton, opening the door for the Road Runners.
The cagey and deceptively quick Cody Simmons replied with a low shot to the stick side of Nitehawk goalie James Potter to give R and R the advantage.
Displaying no signs of rust, Nitehawk coach Jones came out as the final shooter, needing a goal to force sudden death. The former Portland Winter Hawk swept in wide and fooled Hawton with a quick wrist shot to force extras.
After a Nitehawk miss and with the game on the line, the Road Runner’s looked to the lightening quick Bob Lattanzio to end the match. Lattanzio sprinted toward the net, faked one way then rifled a howitzer past a bewildered Potter to claim the 10-9 victory.
The two teams shook hands and celebrated together. The smiles and camaraderie from both sides reveal a solid bond, an indication that the exercise has more than benefited both teams.
“They (the Nitehawk players) get a lot from this. It’s so much more than just coming out, it’s seeing the world in a different way and I think that is as important as anything else,” said Jones. “I can’t say enough about the work he (Postmus) has done, he’s a tireless volunteer for people with disabilities.”
For Postmus, it is a family affair as his daughter Kayleigh is a member of the Road Runners and Arie, a Hawks defenceman and assistant captain.
He is clearly satisfied with the result of the partnership and says it provides life skills for the Nitehawk players and a fun opportunity for the Special Olympians to get to know the faces under the helmets of their favourite team.
“I was involved with minor hockey for 20 years,” said Postmus. “I should have been doing this years ago; this is so rewarding.”
Postmus’ players agree.
“I’ve always looked up to Ben,” said Simmons. “He’s not just doing a good job, he’s doing a hell of a job.”