Steel City Icebergs hockey team offers unique opportunity for special needs players |
Other Local

Steel City Icebergs hockey team offers unique opportunity for special needs players

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins goalie Thomas Greiss skates with Will Stover, a member of the Steel City Icebergs.
Dalton Nuzzo, 6, of McKeesport plays for the Steel City Icebergs.

When the Steel City Icebergs special hockey team opened its season last weekend against the visiting special Columbus Blue Jackets, official scores and statistics were not kept.

Players were on the rink strictly for enjoyment, said Stephanie Maust, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Special Hockey Association, which sponsors the Icebergs.

“It’s non-competitive,” said Maust of Butler, who founded the association in 2009 after seeing her son’s teammate struggle to play because of a developmental problem. “If we give trophies, we give one to everybody.”

Men and women are invited to join the Icebergs regardless of age, disability or skating ability. This year’s squad has 30 members ranging in age from 4 to 5 to their 30s, Maust said.

Weekly practices and home games are in the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Neville Island. Grants provided by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation help pay for equipment, uniforms, travel and ice time.

A member of the USA Hockey organization and the American Special Hockey Association, the squad is scheduled to play several times this year, although team members are not required to participate. The Icebergs plan to cap the season in April at the USA Disabled Hockey Festival in Buffalo.

A hardship committee helps athletes pay USA Hockey membership fees, chairman Michael Carr said.

Allowed to work at their own pace, players are easy to guide, said director of coaching Jarron Gass. They learn to skate with the aid of a walker and are taught stick and puck handling and other fundamentals.

“It’s very laid-back,” coach Mark Nous said.

Volunteers include first-year Penguins goaltender Thomas Greiss, who has attended three practices since September.

Greiss, 28, enjoys working with youngsters.

“I always like to get on the ice and play hockey with kids,” he said. “It’s a fun time for me as much as (it is for them).”

Penguins foundation president Dave Soltesz likes the social interaction the team provides.

“It gets (players) out of their shell,” Soltesz said.

Allen Hopkins, 6, of Midland, Beaver County, enjoys playing offense with a stick and in skates bearing the name of Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

“I like to score,” he said.

Lin Lewis said her son, Dalton Nuzzo, 6, of McKeesport, feels bad when missing a practice.

“Just to see my son and others out there weekly on the ice smile, laugh and have fun is a joy,” Lewis said. “(Their) coming together and learning how to socialize and play the game is awesome.”

“It’s wonderful to see players make new friends and learn new skills,” parent liaison Chris Weber said.

For details on the Steel City Icebergs, visit

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.