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Coquitlam Express teaming up with Canucks Autism Network for special game

Several National Hockey League teams have taken initiatives to be more inclusive for fans on the autism spectrum, but this may be a first for the BC Hockey League.
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The Coquitlam Express is holding a special Autism Acceptance game on Feb. 27, when the BC Hockey League team host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at 3 p.m.

The Coquitlam Express wants to make it easier for families with members on the autism spectrum to enjoy an afternoon out at a junior hockey game.

The BC Hockey League (BCHL) team has partnered with the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) for a special Autism Acceptance game Feb. 27 against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

Game time is 3 p.m. at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex and the Express will be providing special services and resources for spectators on the autism spectrum.

Express general manager Tali Campbell said those services will include a designated quiet room to provide families a break from the sensory-rich environment of the arena and crowd, decreased volume of the music played during the game and a special kit provided by CAN that’s comprised of sensory toys to help reduce anxiety, a detailed scheduled of game events to provide predictability to the day’s events and noise-cancelling headphones.

Campbell said the goal is to create “a positive experience for all fans,” adding he hopes the organization will eventually be able to extend the service beyond just a single game every season.

“This is something that is super important to us an organization.”

That’s cheers to the ears of CAN CEO Britt Anderson.

“Our ultimate goal is for every individual on the spectrum to be understood, accepted and supported in all community spaces,” he said in a news release.

“It’s great to see the Express taking meaningful steps in this direction.”

Campbell said the team will be inviting families that work with CAN to attend the game, that will also feature several special guests and a scrimmage in the first intermission involving the Coquitlam Sharks team that’s part of CAN’s hockey program for children, youth and adults on the autism spectrum.

The NHL's Philadelphia Flyers have been operating an autism inclusion program that started with a single game in 2015 and in 2017, while the Carolina Hurricanes were the first team to be certified as "sensory inclusive" by providing special training to staff at its home arena, a quiet room and sensory kits.

Other arenas, where the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings play, have since achieved similar status by the Alabama-based KultureCity that advocates for sensory accessibility and acceptance for people with invisible disabilities.