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Special Hockey Program

Special Hockey Staff

Gerry Letourneau



The GPYHA/RI Special Needs Hockey program offers Learn to Skate/Instructional Hockey for children age 4 to young adult with Down Syndrome, Autism, or any other developmental disability.

Ice sessions are held Saturday mornings at Lynch Arena in Pawtucket, RI, starting in late October and ending in March. No previous skating experience is required; enrollment is open throughout the season.

The program is open to any boy or girl who is physically able to play, but would be unable to participate in any other organized program due to his or her developmental disability. Players must be free from any physical or medical condition that could cause them to do harm to themselves or to other participants during participation.

The minimum equipment required for the program will be skates (single blade hockey skates) and a hockey helmet with face mask. We have historically found that players who have elbow pads, knee pads, hockey pants (with the standard tail-bone pad) tend to get up smiling when they fall – a great motivator for new skaters!

Private individuals have generously donated some used hockey equipment for participants in the program.

For more information email:

Special Hockey News

Special Hockey Brown Event Recap!

02/11/2018, 2:45pm EST

Thank you to the Brown Men's hockey team for a fantastic day!

The Brown Men’s Hockey Team recently hosted our Special Hockey players to an all-day event at Meehan Auditorium.

Activities began in the afternoon game with the Providence team playing the Southern Connecticut Storm Special Hockey. The parents and fans were treated to an action-packed game that resulted in a very tight loss to the visitors. After the traditional handshake, Brown Head Coach Brendan Whittet came onto the ice and spoke to the players and presented them with an official Brown logo game puck.

The kids were then treated to pizza and drinks before making their way to the Brown bench to view the pregame warm-ups for the game between Brown and UConn. Then for the highlight of the day: both special hockey teams skated onto the ice to stand at the respective goal line with the college players, Providence with Brown and Connecticut with UConn, for the playing of the National Anthem.

Our appreciation to the Brown Men’s Team for graciously taking time to sign autographs and interact with the kids both on and off the ice and a very special thanks to Coach Whittet for orchestrating such a great day for our kids!

Meet Coach Shawn from RI Special Hockey!

12/07/2017, 8:30am EST

In the hustle and bustle before and after our ice sessions we never have the time to meet the coaches who work with our kids week after week. So today we want to take a few moments to introduce you to Coach Shawn Fennell.

Coach Shawn has volunteered as an on-ice coach with Rhode Island Special Hockey since 2015. He tends to work with our learn-to- skate players, and you’ll always find him singling out individual kids for some well needed one-on-one instruction. Apart from being an experienced skater and player, Shawn has a noticeably gentle and attentive way of interacting with all the kids - and it’s no wonder why.

Shawn has a deep passion for making all of society more aware of the importance of supporting children and families that are stricken with life threatening illnesses or living with disabilities. Over the past years he has devoted himself to bringing change in how we, as a society, support those children and their families — to create a way to say, “Hey…I get you, I understand.” From this very simple idea, Shawn has started a worldwide movement where a simple sign-language wink says, “I get you, I understand”.

Here is an excerpt from the website

When many of us encounter a child with a disability, we tend to look away or alter our path — simply because we don’t know what to say or do… when we want to extend support, we are often concerned about how our actions will be perceived: “I don’t want to appear insensitive, but I don’t want to infringe on the family’s privacy,” … Such thoughts can result in us opting to do nothing. What remains in the wake of doing nothing is an obvious, uncomfortable, and unproductive void.

So, instead of living with inaction, discomfort, and awkwardness, we’ve launched Wink. This awareness-raising campaign promotes the nonverbal, nonintrusive action of a “wink,” as spoken in American Sign Language, as a branded and recognized way to convey to children with disabilities — and their families — that their courageous example has touched our hearts.

In addition to a 30 minute documentary that highlights families living with disabilities, Sean also produced a 30 second awareness video promoting the idea of “Wink” that has been shown by the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, as well as at the home rinks of the Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars of the NHL. If that’s not enough, Sean is also a public speaker and the author of an action packed novel, appropriately titled “Wink”. It’s the story of a girl who overcomes obstacles to learn life lessons, and in doing so finds faith, hope, love, understanding, courage and, in the end, awareness.

Many thanks to Coach Shawn for his dedication to our RI Special Hockey program and to his bigger worldwide vision to spread awareness of how we can better relate to children living with disabilities. Take a moment to see Sean’s efforts in action at and say hello to him next time you are at the rink!

RI Special Hockey featured in Providence Journal!