Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had just given up his body to block a hard slapshot. Reacting to the walloping contact between the puck and Rask’s pads, the radio play-by-play announcer made the dramatic call from his booth: “You could hear the thud all the way up here!”
You could also hear the thud from suite 530 inside the Bruins’ home TD Garden, where 11 Perkins School for the Blind students were watching Thursday’s match-up with the St. Louis Blues.
Despite their visual impairments, the students were able to follow along in real time by listening to the radio broadcast on headsets and picking up on audible clues from the audience and the game itself. When the announcer narrated the puck’s fortuitous path away from the net under Rask’s protection, the students were able to join the rest of the 19,000-odd Bruins fans in attendance by breathing a sigh of relief.
“I love hockey because it’s a fast action sport,” said Izzy, 19, a student in the Secondary Program. “I don’t like baseball because it’s so slow. Hockey is so fast, it’s active.”
The students weren’t just there as fans, however. As guests of Bruins all-star center Patrice Bergeron, they were treated to a tactile lesson on the sport, passing around hockey sticks, pucks, skates, pads and helmets.
“This is huge,” said Roger, 21, a Secondary Program student, as he slid his hand into a thoroughly scuffed goalie’s mitt. Ashley, 18, also in the Secondary Program, remarked on the height of one of the hockey sticks, declaring, “It’s taller than me!”
As students passed around gear, Bergeron, who netted a crucial goal in the Bruins’ 3-1 victory, made an appearance to answer questions, take pictures and talk briefly about a hockey league for people with disabilities being organized in the Boston area.
The group also joked around. After examining a helmet that revealed a distinct lack of facial protection, Ashley asked Bergeron, “Do you have all your teeth?”
“Yes, luckily,” he replied with a laugh, noting that not all his colleagues are so fortunate.
Later, Bergeron said people who are blind often “don’t get the chance” to participate in live sporting events, despite advances in technology that have made the experience accessible. For some students in attendance, Thursday was their first time attending a live NHL game.
“They seemed to enjoy their night. To me, that’s all I want to hear,” Bergeron said. “Hockey’s for everyone.”