Mitchell Bryant is in his second year with the Surrey Stingrays. (Submitted photo/Gary Bryant)

PHOTOS: Surrey Stingrays turning dreams into reality for autistic kids

The adaptive hockey program allows kids like Mitchell Bryant an outlet to play hockey

It’s 6 a.m. on a chilly Saturday. While most of us are sleeping, the Bryants hit the road and make their way from Chilliwack to North Surrey Arena.

It’s 12-year-old Mitchell Bryant’s favourite time of the week.

Mitchell is in his second year for the Surrey Stingrays adaptive hockey team, a program for kids with autism.

His dad, Gary Bryant, says Mitchell is ecstatic to have an opportunity to play the sport he loves.

“For years, we knew that our son wanted to play hockey,” said Gary. “It’s been a dream of his, something that he’s always wanted to do.”

Because Mitchell had autism, Gary said he knew minor hockey wasn’t a great option for his son.

“Although he was probably capable of playing, we knew minor hockey would eat him alive,” said Gary.

“He would probably end up hating something that he loved so much.”

The Bryants discovered the Stingrays, which is a part of the Canucks Autism Network (CAN). Paolo and Clara Aquilini founded the program 10 years ago to provide opportunities for kids with autism who are between the ages of 9-18.

Hockey programs under CAN started five years ago, with the inception of the Vancouver Orcas. The Surrey Stingrays came into existence in 2015.

The season for the Stingrays kicks off in mid-October, where coaches from the Canucks Autism Network teach them on-ice skills.

There is also a group of volunteers that make their way to the rink every Saturday morning to help these kids enhance their skills.

Gary says the selflessness and hard work of these volunteers have fuelled his son’s passion for the game of hockey.

“He’s trying to figure out how to tell his coach how he’s going to make it to practice on Saturday once he makes the NHL,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say other than that my son is living his dream.”

John Carinha is the Stingrays’ manager. His 13-year-old son Brandon also plays on the team.

“When he first stepped onto the ice, he walked like a penguin for the first month,” John said. “He still has room to grow but he’s very much involved with the team. He’s grown to the point where he refers to himself as a hockey player.”

He added the kids grow on many levels.

“For these kids, during their Monday to Fridays they are in some kind of home-based therapy. These kids typically never get a social break.”

But, he adds, when they get on the ice, they’re able to feel like just another kid lacing up their skates on a Saturday morning.

“The adaptive piece is almost invisible,” John said. “The energy in the room is unlike something that’s ever been seen.”

The Now-Leader featured Brandon and the team in 2016, towards the end of their first year as an organization. Many of the players have stuck around for all three seasons.

“There’s been very minimal turnover,” John said. “Now after three years, there’s a very connected family unit.

“The on-ice product speaks for itself, and the off-ice product has one of the largest rewards for me personally,” he added. “The bonds and friendships that we’ve created is massive.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Surrey Stingrays will partake in Rogers Hometown Hockey on Dec. 9th and 10th. (Submitted photo/John Carinha)

Brandon Carinha (left) in a shot from 2016. (File photo/Gord Goble)

A team shot of the Surrey Stingrays, along with coaches, parents and volunteers. (Submitted photo/John Carinha)

The Surrey Stingrays practice up at North Surrey Arena every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (Submitted photo/John Carinha)

Mitchell Bryant is in his second year with the Surrey Stingrays. (Submitted photo/Gary Bryant)

A shot of the Stingrays postgame. (Submitted photo/John Carinha)

Just Posted

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

White Rock acupuncturist suspended for ‘scare tactics, excessive fees’

30-day suspension for Jun Hua (Davy) Hua issued Aug. 18

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

Latimer Road the latest Surrey school to report COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read