Philadelphia Blind Hockey founder nominated for Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award

2023 NHL Entry Draft
NHL hockey teams participate in the second day of the draft Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)
(AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The National Hockey League has been giving the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award “to an individual who – through the sport we love – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society” since 2017-2018.

Philadelphia Blind Hockey founder nominated for WIllie O’Ree Community Hero Award

O’Ree was the first black player to play in the NHL. After suffering an injury in his younger years, he was also blind in one eye. This year one of the finalists for the award has a connection to the sporting community as well as the blind community.

Kelsey McGuire, the founder of Philadelphia Blind Hockey, has been nominated for the award this year. McGuire became interested in starting a hockey club for the visually impaired when she was a teacher at the Overbrook School for the Blind. In 2019 she took her class to an event hosted by the Philadelphia Flyers to allow students with visual impairments to get a chance to play the game.

Fast-forward to 2022, and is Philadelphia Blind Hockey officially the 19th Blind Hockey team in the United States. Currently, Philadelphia Blind Hockey has two teams — the Gritty Gliders for those 17 and under and the Breakaways for those 18 and older. The program is free to all of its players and, through its mission aims “to ensure that every individual who is blind or partially sighted has the opportunity to participate in the parasport of Blind Hockey.”

McGuire, from Horsham, PA is the only person from the Philadelphia area to be selected as a finalist for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. Voting takes place until May 19. Philadelphia area fans can vote for McGuire here.

The impact that McGuire and the other nominees make on their hockey communities is enormous. Each strives to bring the game to a greater audience. This year, one the nominees works with injured veterans and Paralympians. Another finalist is bringing the game to young girls in the Los Angeles Area.

Flyer’s president of charities Blair Listino spoke about McGuire’s impact on the Philadelphia Hockey community:

“One of the Flyers’ core values is growing the game of hockey to new and diverse communities and Kelsey is doing just that with the amazing opportunities she is providing to members of the visually impaired community right here in Philadelphia. The Flyers are proud to support Philadelphia Blind Hockey and all of us at the Flyers are rooting for Kelsey.”

Blair Listino 5/6/2024

Whether McGuire wins the award or not, her work for the blind and those with visual impairments will not go unnoticed. Many take playing sports for granted. McGuire and countless others like her bring athletics to those who may not be able to participate for any number of reasons.

Philadelphia Blind Hockey and all of its supporters are making the game accessible for those who have not had access to it before. If that is not something that constitutes a community hero, then what is?

Additional information about Philadelphia Blind Hockey and how to support the program can be found here.

AP Photo/George Walker IV