Everyone likes to to play. It is this belief that led Coach Michael Howick of Bowling Green to form the Black Swamp Ice Frogs, a competitive ice hockey team for special needs individuals.
“Í have a strong belief that whatever it may be, everyone wants to compete,” Howick said. “(The Ice Frogs team) gives you a chance to not just compete, but to be part of a team, to exercise, socialize…it’s just a matter of belonging.”
Howick’s own son, Jack, 10, is on the autism spectrum scale. About three years ago, Howick attended an American Special Hockey Association (ASHA) tournament in Toledo and decided he would start his own team in the area.
With the assistance of grants and his own funds for buying ice time and promotion of the group, Howick was off and running. Soon other families stepped up and joined in fundraising efforts which now take place at BGSU football and ice hockey games.
Howick said his personal ambition for starting the group has grown into a personal daily drive to empower participants to succeed on the ice.
“When you hear an individual first say, ‘I can’t skate,’ or ‘I can’t do that,’ and then within the first few days they are doing it…it is good to see them grow. Some of the students are scared at first and then they start to love it.”
Right now, there are 12-15 families currently involved in the Black Swamp Ice Frogs, and Howick would like more people from surrounding areas to join them. The group is open to special needs individuals, male or female, of all ages. There is a $175 fee to join the group but if affordability is an issue, the group can work with you.
The team competes Sunday evenings, from October to March at the BGSU Ice Arena and will host a national ASHA tournament at the arena the weekend of February 14. Howick anticipates the event will draw thousands to Bowling Green with over 30 teams participating from across the U.S. and Canada.
For more information about the group and tournament, check out their Facebook page
There is also a YouTube video created by Steve Dibble that explains more about the group and its mission at bgyouthhockey.org/bsif