Red Deer’s Dustin Butterfield will get the opportunity of a lifetime when he heads down south to compete for his country in the third International Blind Ice Hockey Series between Team Canada and Team USA.
Butterfield and the rest of the 2022-23 Canadian National Blind Hockey Team headed to Fort Wayne, Indiana to compete in the three-game series.
Butterfield, who is the founder of Central Alberta Bullseye Blind Hockey, said this is his first time playing for Canada on the ice.
“It’s pretty unbelievable. I was always a big fan of Team Canada hockey all the years in the Olympics there’s never anything more entertaining than that,” he said. “To put on that jersey it’s going to be something pretty special.”
Game one is on Oct. 21 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., game two is on Oct. 22 from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., and the final game is on Oct. 23 from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
This is the third time the series was held and the Canadians won both times in 2018 in Pittsburgh and in 2019 in Ottawa.
Butterfield has been playing in blind hockey tournaments and games for five years and after playing in a tournament in Toronto earlier this year, he was invited to the selection camp for Team Canada in Halifax. That alone was an amazing experience for Butterfield because they got to stay at a university for five days alongside some of the best blind hockey players in the country.
“The men and women involved had the dressing room of the university team there with our names on our lockers and had our gear hanging in there like we were superstars,” he said.
After plenty of training on and off the ice, he made the team and is looking forward to donning the red and white this weekend.
“There’s no other hockey game I’d rather be in… We’re hoping to keep Canada on top and hold on to the championship for as long as we can,” he said. “I think that moment when we step out on the ice for game one and you know they have the flags and do the opening ceremony I think will be the highlight.”
The team is split into three categories B1, B2, and B3, which are blind hockey classifications for how much vision each player has. For the goaltenders, who are categorized as B1 players, Butterfield explained have zero to one per cent vision. B2 players such as Butterfield are evaluated as having five per cent of their vision and B3 players have 10 per cent of their vision.
The sport uses an altered puck that makes noise and is larger than a standard hockey puck. In each game, they use a point system for the B1, B2, and B3 classifications. Each team can only have so many points on the ice at once and so for Team Canada generally they’d have three B3 and two B2 skaters on the ice as well as a B1 goaltender.
In 2017 Butterfield discovered there was a need for blind hockey in the area. After he played a few games and tournaments in places such as Edmonton, Lacombe, and Calgary he fell in love with the sport but didn’t want to have to travel so far every time to play. In 2019 he put together a team that would later become Central Alberta Bullseye Blind Hockey and began playing games.
“It’s grown from there and it’s been pretty amazing that local experience,” he said adding many of the participants are people who’ve come back to the sport after not playing it for a long time.
“That’s been one of the most special things about the whole story is to find these people and see how much they improve and how much they love the game. [How much they] love the camaraderie of a team and the environment of the dressing room and stuff has been a pretty awesome experience.”
Butterfield played hockey growing up as a kid but after not playing organized hockey as a teenager he joined a recreational league at university. And after the birth of his children, he didn’t play for quite some time before discovering blind hockey five years ago.
For those interested in watching the U.S. and Canada series all three games are broadcasted live on Canadianblindhockey.com.