2014 UCT Festival - 0827

Created in 2000 for players with develop­mental disa­bilities, the Amer­ican Special Hockey Assoc­iation (ASHA) gives people of all ages and abilities a chance to learn and grow by playing hockey. There are currently over 50 ASHA programs in more than 30 cities through­out the United States. Follow special hockey on Twitter and Facebook.

Alex Ovechkin big hit with kids during skate

Capitals forward receives 2016 American Special Hockey Association Inspiration Award

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

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ARLINGTON, Va. -- Ann Schaab walked slowly around the Washington Capitals locker room going from stall to stall searching for the one that belonged to Alex Ovechkin.

When she finally came to it, she stopped and called out to her mother, Melissa, "Ovi!"

Schaab, 12, met Ovechkin in 2014 when Ovechkin and the Capitals hosted a skating session for children from the American Special Hockey Association at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Schaab, who has Down syndrome, asked Ovechkin to go on a sushi date with her following a Capitals preseason game, and a friendship was born.

Ovechkin hosted his third annual skating event with ASHA on Friday, and Schaab, who plays for the Washington Ice Dogs, was back among the more than 60 players who participated.

"Me and Ovi are special friends," Ann Schaab said. "He helps me a lot. He helps my team and he helps my friends play hockey."

Ovechkin, 31, appeared to enjoy the event as much as the players. The Capitals captain offered encouragement and plenty of fist bumps to the players while helping run drills.

"It's fun," Ovechkin said. "I can see they're smiling. They ask me questions. It's always fun. It's nice to see them smile."

Founded in 2005 for players with developmental disabilities, ASHA has grown into a nationwide program with more than 2,000 players in 60 programs in 54 cities. The programs represented Friday included the Ice Dogs, Baltimore Saints, Montgomery Cheetahs and Nova Cool Cats.

"The big thing with our players is we're therapeutic-based, not competitive," ASHA president Mike Hickey said. "We're trying to instill confidence in them and teach them responsibility and socialization, and this is a real shot in the arm as far as confidence. They go to school tomorrow and tell all their friends that they skated with Alex Ovechkin. So it's kind of a big deal."

Hickey said Ovechkin's skating event is invaluable to the players and to ASHA because of the exposure it creates for the program.

"This draws a lot of awareness to what we're trying to do, and it's incredible for how people view us, that they know who we are," Hickey said.

For his contributions to ASHA, which include donating a car following the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ovechkin received the 2016 ASHA Inspiration Award from Hickey on Friday to chants of "Ovi! Ovi!" from the players. Former New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carkner was the recipient in 2015.

"For these NHL players, a lot of this is obligations," Hickey said. "For Ovi, this isn't an obligation. He loves doing it the last three years. He has a smile on his face. He loves the kids, and they love him."

Ovechkin called it "special" to receive the award.

"I got lucky," he said. "I'm a professional hockey player. I just try to help the kids, and the organization does a great job to help me and help everybody around."

The Inspiration Award wasn't the only thing Ovechkin took home with him Friday. Schaab also presented him with a special gift in the Capitals locker room before they headed out to the ice.

By the time Ovechkin came out to greet her, Schaab was sitting in Nicklas Backstrom's locker stall after having tried on Backstrom's helmet. Although Ovechkin is her "special friend," Schaab wears No. 19 because of Backstrom.

Ovechkin doesn't seem to mind. He welcomed Schaab with a big hug before the two sat down to talk about life and hockey. That's when Schaab showed him the children's book, "Drop the Puck, Let's Play Hockey."

After reading about the friendship between Ovechkin and Schaab, and meeting Ann at an Ice Dogs fundraiser in April, author Jayne J. Jones Beehler decided to incorporate them into the third installment of her "Drop the Puck" series. In the latest book, one of the returning characters, Blaine, the manager of the Minnesota Bears youth team who also has Down syndrome, joins an ASHA team.

When Blaine initially has trouble learning to skate, a new character named Ann lends a hand.

After meeting Schaab, Jones thought, "There's no better ASHA player to highlight this from the heart than Ann."

"So Ann friends him and skates over to Blaine, who is struggling from his first couple of marches on the ice," Jones said. "She friends him, helps him out, and we continue on the Ovi love affair a little bit because in the book Blaine asks Ann go for mini-donuts. Those are a Minnesota hot commodity. Then, Ann replies, 'I don't like mini-donuts. I prefer sushi.'"

Schaab opened the book to page 35 to show Ovechkin the illustration of her character helping Blaine. She then signed the page for Ovechkin.

"I will put it with all of my trophies," Ovechkin promised Schaab.

All of the proceeds from sales of the book through Nov. 7 will go to ASHA. Ovechkin, who has talked about starting a family with wife, Nastya, liked the idea of maybe someday reading the book to his children so they can learn about his friendship with Schaab.

"It's always nice when the kids love you and I love them," he said. "We have fun, we talked before the [skate], and it's great."

Team ASHA Designer Clothing and Bags by Teags & Ry

The 6th annual 2017 UCT Winter Hockey Festival, January 13-15, 2017 Valencia, CA

The 6th annual 2017 UCT Winter Hockey Festival is taking place January 13-15, 2017 at the Ice Station Valencia in Valencia, California.

The 6th annual UCT Winter Hockey Festival for special hockey programs is headed back to Valencia, California! We’re expecting teams from throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada to turn out to participate in games Jan. 13-15, 2017, at the Ice Station Valencia, the premiere ice facility in Southern California.

Some highlights of the festival include the annual Opening Ceremonies, medaling ceremony, special guest appearances, giveaways, prizes, merchandise for sale, silent auction, and more! New this year will be Closing Ceremonies at the social event!  Don’t miss your chance to play in a chilled arena in warm and sunny California in January 2017!


If you are struggling to put together your full team to travel to and participate in the 2017 UCT WHF, we encourage you to bring a partial team. We will be happy to combine and put together an “All-Star” team so that all athletes can participate in the festival.

Nearby Airports:
(BUR) Burbank Bob Hope Airport – 24 miles to Ice Station Valencia
(LAX) Los Angeles International Airport – 41 miles to Ice Station Valencia

UCT Gives Back AGAIN to Special Hockey Video Contest


UCT Gives Back AGAIN to SPECIAL HOCKEY Video Contest

UCT has been helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 50 years. Members support schools, workshops, camps and other programs that benefit those with disabilities. UCT also supports the American Special Hockey Association (ASHA). 

Last year, we gave $15,000 to two deserving special hockey programs. Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response to the 2015 UCT Gives Back to Special Hockey video contest, we’re sponsoring another video contest for special hockey programs across North America – the UCT Gives Back AGAIN to Special Hockey Video Contest! We have two prizes to give away AGAIN – the first-place winner will receive $10,000 and the second-place winner will receive $5,000!  It’s easy to enter:

  • Create a short video up to 2 1/2 minutes long
  • The video doesn’t need to be professionally filmed – use a video camera or smartphone and keep it simple
  • Explain how the $10,000 would help your program and what UCT means to you
  • Video finalists will be posted on UCT’s Facebook page for followers to vote on the winners, and you can VOTE once per day


*This year we will not be showing the total votes on the leader board*
*This year the voting period will only last 4 weeks*


UCT Gives Back – for more information and the timeline.


Be sure to “LIKE” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UCTinAction, and subscribe to our blog!

2015 UCT Gives Back to Special Hockey Winners:
1st Place $10,000:  West Michigan Patriots
2nd Place $5,000:  CCYHA Columbus Blue Jackets Special Hockey

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, D.C. (void in Puerto Rico) and Canada (excl. Quebec). Must be 18 or older (U.S.) or age of majority (Canada) to enter. One first-place prize of US$10,000 for your team, and one second-place prize of US$5,000 for your team is available to be won. Limit one entry per person per team. Odds of winning the prize depends on the number and caliber of eligible submissions and the number of votes received. Math skill-testing question required in Canada.