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Autism accessibility continues at NHL, AHL & junior arenas across BC

Home » Blog » Autism accessibility continues at NHL, AHL & junior arenas across BC

October 28, 2023

Arenas across the province have come alive again! From the big leagues to the juniors, we are well into hockey season.

At CAN, we see the positive impact that sports have on our participants and families. While our participants’ love of sports can start in our programs, it often extends to stadiums where they can watch their favourite teams play live and in-person.

That’s why our training arm has worked tirelessly to make professional and junior hockey games more accessible in leagues across BC.

Starting with our partnership with the Vancouver Canucks, Rogers Arena became the first Canadian NHL stadium to feature comprehensive autism accessibility in 2018.

Read more: Autism Accessibility at Rogers arena (canucks.com)

Elias Pettersson representing the cause at the Canucks’ autism acceptance game in 2023. Photo: Canucks

In addition to providing autism training to frontline staff, CAN collaborated with the Canucks to develop in-arena resources for any fan that might benefit—whether they are on the autism spectrum or have sensory sensitivities.

In the four years since, we have expanded training & resource development to include teams from the American Hockey League (AHL), Western Hockey League (WHL) and British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).

During the 2022-23 season alone, partnering teams included the Canucks (NHL), Abbotsford Canucks (AHL), Kamloops Blazers (WHL), Coquitlam Express, Chilliwack Chiefs, Nanaimo Clippers & Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL).

Resources can vary from stadium-to-stadium and typically include:

  • Autism-trained frontline staff
  • Noise-cancelling headphones & sunglasses for those with sensory sensitivities
  • Visual cues like a visual walkthrough, map and game timeline to help illustrate what to expect
  • Sensory toys like squishy pucks for those who benefit from tactile stimulation

CAN participants benefiting from noise-cancelling headphones at Coquitlam Express & Kamloops Blazers games.

In many cases, teams chose to announce their new partnership with CAN during Autism Acceptance Month last April. In addition to the availability of sensory-friendly resources, teams gave key opportunities to CAN participants, parents and members from the autism community to be part of the game.

Hundreds of CAN families were provided tickets to WHL & BCHL games to enjoy the on-ice action and sample the new resources. Meanwhile, Autistic adults & CAN parents alike were featured during key in-game opportunities, like singing the national anthem, dropping the ceremonial puck and announcing the game behind the PA mic.

And at each of the Autism Acceptance-themed BCHL games, families were even welcomed onto the ice to skate with the players post-game!

  Read more: Coquitlam Express welcome hundreds in the stands and on the ice

CAN participants drop the puck at the Nanaimo Clippers’ autism acceptance game in 2023. Photo: Nanaimo Clippers

The Victoria Grizzlies invited CAN participants & families to join them on the ice post-game! Photo: Grizzlies

Most importantly, the availability of sensory-friendly resources will continue at six NHL, AHL, WHL & BCHL arenas in 2023-24.

Resources are available for each home game* for each of the following teams:

*We recommend reaching out to the team and/or arena’s guest services to confirm availability of resources.

We believe that every community should take action to support individuals on the autism spectrum. Hockey is for everyone – and we have been so encouraged to see so many join us in this belief.

Our hope is that these six NHL, AHL, WHL and BCHL teams will be joined by many more in the years to come!

Questions? Contact [email protected]!

Further reading

Canucks celebrate autism acceptance this Sunday!

YYJ marks Autism Acceptance Month by increasing accessibility

Breaking barriers: From CAN to Chilliwack Minor Hockey

CAN & Sport Surrey give hockey participants a day to remember

Coquitlam Express welcome hundreds in the stands & on the ice