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ASHA takes case for support to Congress

American Special Hockey Association brings sport to those with physical, developmental disabilities

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

The American Special Hockey Association presented a message in Washington on Wednesday that executive director Dave Chase believes can be unifying in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

As part of American Special Hockey Day on Capitol Hill, players, coaches and NHL ambassadors from ASHA took part in hearings in the House and the Senate to spread the word of how hockey can be therapeutic for children and young adults who have physical and developmental disabilities.

"It was quite an experience for your average Joe citizen to see how the corridors of power actually operate," Chase said Thursday. "The [hearing] in the House was attended briefly by Congressman Pat Meehan from Pennsylvania, who is a longtime hockey guy, referee, youth coach. It's been in his blood for a long time, so he's really supportive of what we're trying to do there."

ASHA uses hockey to help athletes with developmental disabilities learn dependability, self-reliance, concentration, willingness to share and personal accountability. NHL players such as Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin have gotten involved by holding annual hockey clinics with ASHA athletes.

"The results are measurable, which is very important in our community because as everyone tries to deal with Autism Spectrum Disorder everybody is trying different methods to be more successful with those borderline individuals that could fall between the cracks, between your neurotypical students when they're kids and your special-needs kids," Chase said. "There's a line in the middle that's getting wider and wider, and programs like ours, we're a purely therapeutic program. That's our main focus. Going outside of that, if there's competitive play, as long as it's done within that confine, we're OK with that. I like to call it compet-apeutic."

Beyond the hearings, ASHA representatives met with staff members of 17 congressmen and senators to try to gain support for a bill advocating ASHA's efforts that Chase said a bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) will be introduced to the House and Senator "shortly."

"It could actually be a good time now," Chase said. "We may press forward more quickly than usual because it's a bipartisan bill that is noncontroversial. What better time for the House and Senate to take a look."

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