Mighty Penguins proudly hosted USA Hockey’s National Sled Team’s training camp weekend at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Our very own Dan McCoy hit the ice with the team, which included many of the players who won the gold medal in the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Our Mighty Penguins players enjoyed the opportunity to see their sled hockey heroes take the ice in our hometown. It was inspiring for them to see firsthand what they can achieve one day with hard work and dedication to their sport. Thanks to the National Sled Team coaches, staff and athletes for inspiring our Mighty Pens!
Special thanks to Pittsburgh Penguins skating coaches Ty Hennes and Matt Herr for working with the team over the weekend and sharing your knowledge and passion for the game. Hockey Is For Everyone!
In an exciting finish to the 7th annual USA Hockey Sled Classic presented by the NHL, Pittsburgh’s Mighty Penguins Senior team was crowned Tier 2 Champs, defeating Keystone State rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-3!
The Mighty Penguins Adult Intermediate Team also made it to the championship in the Tier V division and finished 2nd with a heartbreaking loss to Carolina 3-0.
This year’s NHL Sled Classic was hosted by the Nashville Predators at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee and included a record 24 teams, each affiliated with an NHL club. The Mighty Penguins were proud to send both of our adult teams for the 2nd year in a row. A huge thanks to the Nashville Predators, USA Hockey Disabled Section & the NHL for sponsoring another great tournament!
For full coverage of the NHL Sled Classic, click here
Dan McCoy’s reflections on DICK’s Sporting Goods Contenders program, the 2016 Rio Olympics & Paralympics, and his personal Paralympic success at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics!
Team USA Best of….
The USA and the world witnessed the top athletes from around our great country compete for their nation, families and friends, and themselves. These athletes displayed amazing feats of courage, strength, and perseverance throughout 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics this summer. The media in the USA tried to capture what it was like for the athletes as they trained and competed on the world’s biggest stage. Simply watching the games on TV, however, doesn’t do justice to the hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice that goes into competing at the top level of a sport.
In 2014, I was blessed to be one of those athletes competing in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi Russia. Winning a gold medal at the Paralympics was something I had dreamed about since I was 8 years old. Being able to see that dream realized 12 years later was indescribable. Watching this summer’s games brought back all of the emotions from 2014.
This September, I had the incredible privilege to attend the 2016 Best of the US Award Ceremony which honored the Rio Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their amazing performances. I was asked this year to be the Winter Paralympic representative for Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Contenders program which employs Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls who are working towards achieving their dream of competing for a chance to represent their country on sport’s biggest stage.
This was my second time attending the amazing event. I attended in the fall of 2014 as a member of the US Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. At the 2014 Best of the US Award Ceremony, we were recognized with the “Team of the Paralympic Games” award. This was just more icing on the cake of an amazing year. Having been to Best of the Games once already as an athlete, it was extremely humbling to attend as a representative and meet some of the world’s best Summer Olympic and Paralympic athletes in person.
Whether I was shaking hands with Simone Biles or chatting with Lex Gillette, we all understood what it took to get to this point. Regardless of whether one competed in the Olympics or Paralympics, our journeys have followed similar paths. The paths involved hard work, very high highs and very low lows, and ultimately tremendous perseverance to become one of the few blessed athletes to compete for our country.
As Director of Player Development for the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey Organization, one of my goals is to help players develop the athlete within each of them. By doing so, I hope that players see that working hard at a sport you love will not only improve your game on the ice but will improve your overall well-being off the ice. Overall health, self-confidence, and improved independence are sure to follow. I’ll be the first to say that the journey is not easy but it is very well worth it.
At the end of the day, it does not matter what your abilities are, it matters how you use those abilities to become the best version of yourself. Regardless of your situation, it is very important to always set goals and never quit working for what you want most in life. Never let anything or anyone limit your dreams and those dreams should be BIG! During my journey to Paralympic Gold, my motto was “My only limitations are those I impose on myself.” I hope to continue to help individuals with and without disabilities to understand this motto and believe that dreams can come true with hard work and perseverance. I just have one question for you…What’s your dream?
Director of Player Development
Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey
@mclsed14 (Twitter and Instagram)
The Mighty Penguins proudly hosted the 1st Annual “Sled Face-Off Challenge” at our home rink, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex this past weekend. 11 teams from across the country participated in 3 youth and adult divisions including Novice, Junior and Intermediate. Competition was fierce and exciting, but most importantly, all of these amazing sled hockey athletes had fun!
A visit from Lord Stanley on Sunday morning made the weekend complete for players and their families. Seeing our littlest athletes get a surprise on-ice visit from the Stanley Cup was priceless. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins & UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, our amazing athletes and hockey fanatics have a memory that will last a lifetime!
A huge thanks to all of our amazing volunteers who selflessly gave of their time this weekend. Our partnership with 2 local youth hockey organizations has been tremendous and the on-ice help from the Central Catholic Vikings and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite was invaluable. We’re not sure who had more more fun, the youth volunteers or the kids!
Thank you to all of our sponsors who partnered with us to make this tournament a huge success! Your continued support of our Mighty Penguins program is helping these athletes achieve their dreams! Thank you to the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Federated Investors, Fat Heads Saloon, 84 Lumber, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Mobility Sports, Langer Material Handling, Olesnevich Fabricating, Tri-State Development & Design, Riggs Communication, Finn Chiropractic and Spina Bifida Association of Western Pennsylvania. Together, we created a fun, challenging and exciting competition for sled hockey athletes from across the country and showcased here in Pittsburgh that “Hockey is For Everyone!”
Congratulations to the winners of each division:
Novice Division: Northwest Ohio Arctic Wolves
Junior Divison: Grand Rapids Sled Wings
Intermediate Division: Texas Blades
Looking forward to seeing everyone on the ice next fall for the 2nd Annual “Sled Face-Off Challenge!”
These are the stories we love to share! Andrew Rich, a 7th grader in the Fox Chapel school district, organized a fundraiser game to benefit the Mighty Penguins for his Bar Mitzvah project. Andrew and 10 of his friends hit the ice to play our Mighty Penguins Junior team. On hand to help Andrew’s team was Paralympic Gold Medalist Dan McCoy.
The boys learned a lot about sled hockey and got a chance to experience first hand how much hard work and dedication it takes for athletes to play the game. An appreciation for the adversity our athletes overcome to play the game we all love, was a valuable lesson for all of the boys.
Dan McCoy graciously spoke to the kids about his Paralympic experiences and shared his gold medal! Getting to wear an Olympic gold medal was a highlight of the day for these kids.
In addition to organizing the on-ice game, Andrew raised over $3000 for the Mighty Penguins team by asking friends and families to donate to the cause in lieu of Bar Mitzvah gifts!
Thank you Andrew for coming out to support our amazing athletes and hitting the ice with your friends! You are an amazing role model for other kids and we can’t wait to see you back on the ice soon!
The Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey players worked together to donate over 80 pairs of new and gently used skates to the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey team through the “Skates for the Greats” drive. Many of the Mighty Pens athletes wear tennis shoes on the ice, but they need the protection that a skate provides. The cost of a pair of skates that will need to have the blades removed discourages many of the Mighty Pens families from purchasing skates to protect their player properly.
The partnership between the Pens Elite teams and the Mighty Penguins has been amazing to watch develop this past season. In addition to having Paralympic gold medal winner Dan McCoy speak to every team, many of the Pens Elite teams were able to hit the ice in sleds and scrimmage the Mighty Pens. By engaging with athletes who play the game only slightly differently, the Pens Elite youth hockey players had a tremendous opportunity to learn valuable life lessons like empathy, compassion and respect for those who have physical struggles to overcome.
Skates donated will be cleaned by a volunteer group of Pens Elite players who have arranged to have Pure Hockey on Neville Island remove the blades at no charge. Skates will be distributed to the Mighty Pens players in June in anticipation of their 2016-17 season! A huge thanks to all who participated in the “Skates for the Greats” drive demonstrating that Hockey Is For Everyone!
The Mighty Pens hosted California University’s Graduate Athletic Training Program students who recently hit the ice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex as part of their Athletic Healthcare for Special Populations class. The students learned about para-athletes, specifically those playing sled hockey. The students were able to hit the ice in sleds and try out the sport for themselves. Off-ice, they had the opportunity to speak with 2014 Team USA’s Sled Hockey gold medalist, Dan McCoy about his achievements as a Paralympic athlete.
Thank you to all of the athletic trainers as well as Dr. Shelly DiCesaro, Head Athletic Trainer & Professor at California University. We appreciate your desire to help athletes of all abilities achieve their dreams! Hope to see you all on the ice again soon!
“I love hockey because everyone looks at me and what I can do, not the things I can’t because of my disability.” – Callie Rose, 10 years old, recipient of The Jennifer Kryger Memorial Team Spirit Award! We couldn’t think of a better player on our team who exemplifies a positive attitude, a beautiful laugh and a whole lot of heart! Your Mighty Pens family is so proud of you Callie!!!
Congratulations to Callie and a huge thank you to everyone who made the 2016 Griff’s Sled Wings Hockey Classic an amazing tournament. Looking forward to 2017!
The Heitz 61 Memorial Foundation hosted the 1st Annual Special Hockey camp, August 3-5th, at Robert Morris University for the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey team, the Steel City Icebergs and the Pittsburgh I.C.E. The 3-day camp offered our Mighty Pens athletes the opportunity to work on both on-ice and off-ice skill development as well as focusing on nutrition and physical fitness.
The camp was an amazing opportunity for the Mighty Pens players to build their self-esteem and develop their team building skills together. A visit from Pittsburgh Penguins’ Iceburgh made the camp a wonderful memory for all of our players!
Thanks to Central Catholic High School’s Senior team, ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators’ Sean Berkstresser, NHL Vancouver Canuck’s Matt Bartkowski, and RMU Men’s Head Coach Derek Schooley for helping our athletes develop their on-ice skills. Our teams had fun working with everyone while developing new skills.
A huge thanks goes to Debbie and Doug Heitzenrater who devoted their time to making this camp so special for athletes of all abilities in honor of their son, Ryan Heitzenrater. The Heitz 61 Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, offered this free summer hockey camp in memory of Ryan Heitzenrater. Please visit The Heitz 61 Memorial Foundation to learn more about Ryan and the Foundation’s mission to honor his legacy.
An inspiring group of kids from Upper St. Clair hosted the 3rd Annual Car Wash and Bake Sale to benefit the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey teams. Organized by 13 year-old Nathan Piatt and his friends, these kids worked together to create posters to market the event, organize the supplies and bake delicious treats for the bake sale.
On the day of the event, they took turns washing cars, promoting the car wash on the street and selling their baked goods. Their hard work paid off and they raised over $1400 for our amazing athletes! These kids demonstrated what it’s all about – Kids Helping Kids!
A huge thanks to all of these kids for being such great friends to our Mighty Pens!