The American Special Hockey Association, ASHA, is a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities enjoy hockey.

Jen O'Brien, a Binghamton area resident, serves as the Executive Director for the nationwide non-profit. Earlier this week, ASHA announced an alliance with the National Hockey League and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives.ASHA unveiled their new strategic plan to increase their reach and impact on both adults and children with disabilities across the United States.

ASHA’s goal is to make the game of hockey accessible to children and adults with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities across the country so everyone can be a part of the team on, or off, the ice.

When O'Brien took over as Exeutive Director, they moved the ASHA offices to the Greater Binghamton area.Since then, ASHA has grown to serve over 100 special hockey clubs in the U.S. including a team here in the Binghamton area (Ice House Hawks), and more than 5,000 registrants nationwide.

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In Binghamton, members of ASHA have worked with the Binghamton Devils both on and off the Ice. The Devils have worked with the kids in our area to share their love for the game and welcome them to their home games as part of the 7th Man Program.

“It’s a bit of a hidden secret that a Binghamton based hockey organization has a national reach in diversity, equity and inclusion in hockey” Jen O'Brien said. “In July we distributed $375,000 in new equipment to clubs and their athletes in need nationwide through our partnership with Bauer, out of our Vestal warehouse”.

According to O'Brien, Bauer’s #Bauergivesback program has donated over $700,000 in equipment over the past two season to ASHA, ensuring that players of all ages and abilities have a chance to try hockey.

Many NHL teams had already been involved with special hockey, but the new alliance with the National Hockey League will expand opportunities and awareness for accessibility and inclusion around the country and give more people the opportunity to enjoy the sport of hockey.

ASHA’s decision to move their operations to the Binghamton area celebrates the rich history of hockey in our community. While much of hockey continues to play in a bubble, Binghamton’s hockey community is lucky to have this national organization making a difference in the sport.

[via:American Special Hockey Association/NHL]