Established in 2002 as part of the New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey Club, the New Jersey Dare Devils provide opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to participate in the sport of ice hockey in a specially-adapted learning environment. The Dare Devils are comprised of over 50 developmentally disabled players (ages 5-adult) across a wide range of abilities -- from advanced to learn-to-skate -- who participate in a brand of the sport known as "Special Hockey."
Special Hockey is one of three disciplines sanctioned by USA Hockey, the national governing body of hockey in the United States. Approximately 50 Special Hockey teams exist in more than 30 U.S. cities as part of the American Special Hockey Association. ASHA helps disabled children and adults to develop characteristics such as dependability, self-reliance and confidence through their participating in hockey.
Today, there are more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. living with developmental disabilities -- from Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, to mental retardation and a host of neurological disorders. Unfortunately, New Jersey leads the nation in one of the most well-known forms of developmental disabilities: Autism. According to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control study, 1 in 94 children living in New Jersey have Autism. The Dare Devils draw players from all over the State and the region as well.
The Dare Devils' coaching staff is comprised of nine experienced, USA Hockey-certified adult coaches many of whom have been with the program for six or more years as well as over 50 of "neuro-typical" middle school-aged and high school-aged players who play in traditional hockey programs. These "junior coaches" assist the coaching staff on-ice, enabling a low player-to-coach ratio and fostering an environment in which hockey players from all walks of life can come together to learn and form meaningful relationships.
The Dare Devils have a regular Saturday afternoon practice slot, 2-4pm, at the Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain in West Orange, NJ from September through April and participate in approximately 10 games per season. Dare Devils’ players also have the opportunity to participate in home and away tournaments, including the annual Jim Gregory Special Hockey International (SHI) Friendship tournament and USA Hockey Disabled Festival. The Dare Devils are a 501(c)3 organization and rely on dedicated volunteers and annual fund-raising efforts to operate.