The Coquitlam Express will host its second annual Autism Acceptance game March 26, when the Powell River Kings visit the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex at 3 p.m.
The presentation of the team’s last game of the regular season schedule will feature several initiatives to create a more friendly experience for visitors on the autism spectrum including:
- lower volume for music
- no horn blasts after the home team scores
- a designated quiet room for anyone needing a break from the sensory-rich environment of the arena
- the availability of special resource kits provided by the Canucks Autism Network (CAN) that contain sensory toys to reduce anxiety, a visual walkthrough booklet to help make the experience more predictable and noise-cancelling headphones
As well, the team will employ an anthem singer and PA announcer who are both on the autism spectrum, a representative from CAN will participate in a ceremonial puck drop at the beginning of the game and the intermission will feature a scrimmage between CAN hockey teams.
Express players will also wear special jerseys to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for CAN.
“We want all fans to know that our home games will always be accessible and welcoming to everyone,” said Express general manager Tali Campbell in a press release.
He added the team's staff and volunteers receive special training to help them identify and support fans who are on the autism spectrum.
CAN CEO Britt Anderson said the hockey team’s effort to be inclusive is appreciated.
“The Express have shown their commitment to the cause in myriad ways, from fundraising to volunteering to paving the way for other teams to follow suit.”
Several NHL teams have implemented similar initiatives in recent years to make their games more inclusive to fans on the autism spectrum.
The Philadelphia Flyers started an autism inclusion program in 2015 and the Carolina Hurricanes were the first team in the league to be certified as “sensory inclusive.”
The Express currently occupy sixth place in the BC Hockey League’s Coastal division standings, after losing a pair of road games last weekend.
Coquitlam lost 5-2 to the league-leading Penticton Vees on Friday, and 6-3 to the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday.
But the team is still only two points back of the third-place Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who have played one more game.
A three-game road trip to Vancouver Island this coming weekend includes two games against the Victoria Grizzlies, who occupy fourth place, sandwiched around a visit to the last-place Cowichan Valley Capitals.