WATERTOWN, MA -- Bruins players Chris Kelly and Andrew Ference put their agility and coordination to the test this Thursday, but it wasn’t just another day at practice.
In fact, these two B’s stars were nowhere near a hockey rink.
Kelly and Ference were at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, where they participated in a game of “Goalball” with a group of vision-impaired athletes as a part of the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone program.
Blindfolded, teams of three stand facing each other on opposite ends of the court. Players take turns rolling a specially-designed ball with embedded bells that allow athletes to judge the movement and position of the ball using only their audio senses. The object of the game is to score a goal by rolling the ball past the opponents and into their net.
Once the game got going, Kelly and Ference channeled their inner goalie, making sprawling saves to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net.
“You really had to concentrate just to try to hear where the ball was at,” Ference said. “After the first couple times, it was pretty neat.
"It’s amazing if you really focus how you could actually tell where the ball was.”
Of course, like every goalie, the players let a few slip right past their fingers; much to the delight of the Perkins athletes who earned bragging rights by scoring on a professional athlete.
The difficulty of the game was not lost on Kelly, who explained that it was essential to communicate with teammates and rely on their help when saving goals to make up for the lack of visual cues.
“It’s a tough game, but it was a lot of fun,” Kelly said. “Obviously, it’s a new game for Andrew and I today, but I think we enjoyed it.
"Whenever we can get out and enjoy something they enjoy it’s always neat.”
After the game, the Perkins students got the chance to meet the B’s players, take pictures, and ask questions.
As they posed for pictures, the kids peppered Ference and Kelly with questions about hockey, competition, and the Stanley Cup.
“They’re all really big sports fans,” said Carolyn Assa, Director of Communications for Perkins, explained. “We follow all the Boston teams.
"So for them to get to meet people that they look up to, for any teenager, it’s really exciting. It’s really encouraging; it makes you feel important.”