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With their first practice on November 14, 2010, the Mercer Bulldogs had 13 Players, 7 Coaches and 4 Junior Coaches. By the end of that first season, the Mercer Bulldogs grew to over 20 Players, 10 Coaches and more than 10 Junior Coaches. Founded by a group of parents and volunteers, the Mercer Bulldogs Special Hockey Team works to provide opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to participate in the sport of ice hockey in a specially-adapted learning environment. Today, the Mercer Bulldogs are comprised of over 30 developmentally disabled players (ages 5-adult) across a wide range of abilities -- from advanced to learn-to-skate -- who participate in a brand of the sport known as "Special Hockey."
Approximately 50 Special Hockey teams exist in more than 30 U.S. cities as part of the American Special Hockey Association. ASHA helps disabled children and adults to develop characteristics such as dependability, self-reliance and confidence through their participating in hockey.
There are more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. living with developmental disabilities -- from Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, to mental retardation and a host of neurological disorders. Unfortunately, New Jersey leads the nation in one of the most well-known forms of developmental disabilities: Autism. According to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control study, 1 in 94 children living in New Jersey have Autism.
The Bulldogs' coaching staff is comprised of 10 Adult Coaches and Volunteers. Our Junior Coaches are high school-aged players who play in traditional hockey programs. These "junior coaches" assist the coaching staff on-ice, enabling a low player-to-coach ratio and fostering an environment in which hockey players from all walks of life can come together to learn and form meaningful relationships.
The Mercer Bulldogs have a regular Sunday morning practice slot, 7:30 - 8:30 am , at the Mercer County Park Skating Center, from November through March. The Mercer Bulldogs rely on dedicated volunteers and annual fund-raising efforts to operate.