York Polar Bears hockey team takes to the ice for first home game of season

YORK, Pa. -- The York Polar Bears, an American Special Hockey Team, took the ice Sunday night for their first home game of the season.

Even though the team didn't win, for the players, it's about more than the score at the end of the game.

The York Polar Bears faced off against the Lehigh Valley Polar Bears at the York City Ice Arena.

Christian McKenzie, the mother of a Polar Bears hockey player, said, "We are so fortunate to have found this team."

Allison Yinger, also the mother of a hockey player, said, "It's really cool if she scores a goal and to see her out there with her teammates."

Kids from ages 5-17 with disabilities ranging from autism, to Down syndrome, to visual impairments are able to join the Polar Bears.

Yinger said, "I think it gives her an opportunity to participate in an organized sport, where at school she might not be able to do that due to the fact that she's blind in one eye and has low vision in the other eye."

The Polar Bears play against other special needs hockey teams in tournaments and games.

McKenzie said, "I remember the first tournament we went to in Penn State. I was in tears because I never thought that I would see her do something like this."

Richard Garrison and his wife founded the Polar Bears at the beginning of 2016, and Garrison said it's not just about the sport.

He said, "To help them overcome as we prefer to say hurdles, not special needs, the hurdles that they have in front of them one at a time."

Parents and coaches are thrilled to give these kids this opportunity which they see as more than just exercise.

Garrison said, "Learn hand-eye coordination, learn balance - they're learning how to play as a team, but they're actually learning mathematics because of angles of passing, angles of shooting, how to skate in and things like that."

And it's showing everyone what these kids are made of.

"Even though a lot of the world says that these children cannot do. But they can," he said.

The Polar Bears are currently holding a food drive until December 15. Donations can be dropped off at the York City Ice Arena.

To donate to the team, go to their website at www.yorkpolarbears.org/donate/