About 1,200 athletes from Canada, the United States and even across the pond in England are in Ottawa this week for the 2015 Special Hockey International Tournament for players with developmental disabilities.
Ottawa's Capital City Condors are hosting the annual event. Teams will play four games in total at one of three arenas in Ottawa’s west end: the Bell Sensplex, Kanata Recreational Centre and Goulbourn Rec Centre.
But for the SPICE Jets from Slough, U.K., the arena they are particularly interested in is the Canadian Tire Centre.
"The Senators, the Bruins, these are like legendary — they're teams that you hear about, you see on TV, but you never get to actually see them," says club chair Ricci Hodgson.
Since they've travelled all the way from London's outskirts, the team is also hoping to check out a sporting goods store as part of their once-in-a-lifetime hockey trip.
Jets goaltender Arran Lawton, who has severe autism, is also looking forward to the games. As the anchor of the defence, he has learned how to signal important cues to his defencemen about who is chasing them.
"So it's getting that friendship basis, you need to tell him you need to go that way — it's working on friendship and speech," he says.
Since there is only one other hockey club for players with developmental disabilities in the U.K., the Werewolves of London,the tournament is also a new experience for the team, Hodgson says.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to go out and play with other kids who they don't know," he says.
Opening ceremonies will be held Wednesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre
The games run from Thursday, March 19, to Saturday, March 21.