Nelson Rego is a rec league goalkeeper in Edmonton and he is also blind.
Rego lost his eyesight in 2001. Specialists expected the decline to be gradual. But one morning, shortly after his diagnosis, he woke up and his vision was gone.
It was a difficult moment, he recalls.
Although it took a few years to adapt, Rego said it never stopped him from pursuing his goals.
I have a beautiful wife and child, so I can’t say I would take all that back because I wouldn’t have what I have now if I didn’t go through that circumstance, he said.
John Hunter, a rec hockey player in Edmonton, met Rego online when he contacted him to inquire about gear changes and a chest protector.
A few weeks later, Hunter said he was injured for one of their matches and made a Facebook appeal for a replacement goalkeeper. He didn’t get any bites at first
Nelson calls me, and he basically starts with, Hey, how’s the chest protector going? By the way, I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not, but I saw your post for a goalkeeper sub for your league game tonight. What do you think of me playing?
Hunter brought the idea to the team and everyone was all for giving Rego a chance.
He could be the first blind goalkeeper to play a league game, he said. Here in Edmonton, no one has ever played a league game 100 percent blind.
We didn’t tell the umpires until the puck dropped, he laughed.
Nelson Rego, a blind goalkeeper for the Edmonton SeeHawks.
‘I THINK HE ONLY HAS SPIDEY SENSES’
To make sure he is centered in the net, he taps his stick on the right and his glove on the left, he explained.
As long as I don’t drift too far off the net, I know where I am.
According to Rego, his hearing is tuned and that is how he gauges his playing strategy.
I pick up the subtle signals that people see with their vision with my hearing.
I think he just has a keen sense, Hunter laughed. The rest are all the hockey gods speaking to him.
The game came down to one goal, 9-8, and according to Hunter, Rego held out all night.
Of course I came to see. I scream left, right, butterfly, center.
He played in a league game just like any other normal person, he said.
They have not made any accommodation for me, Rego added. It was like being one of the guys on the team and that whole camaraderie you get with a team is what I love the most.
Rego said playing in that game was a huge moment for him as it made blind hockey more aware.
Anything you put your mind to, no matter the obstacles, it can be done.
With files from CTV news Edmontons Dave Mitchell
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