SuperHEROS Spring Friendship Series

Jun 19, 2024 | News, SuperHEROS

“This weekend completely embodies what hockey is all about”.

HEROS President and Founder, Norm Flynn couldn’t have described the SuperHEROS Spring Friendship Series any better.

To cap off another incredible season of HEROS, SuperHEROS from Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary all met for the inaugural, SuperHEROS Spring Friendship Series, hosted on March 29th-31st in Calgary.
In total, 80 SuperHEROS players came together to experience the joy of playing in a hockey tournament with their friends and teammates, representing a wonderful step forward in SuperHEROS programming.

HEROS Executive Director, Kevin Hodgson, has overseen the program since its inception in 2018 and notes that there has been an incredible evolution in programming since then, “When we started SuperHEROS in 2018, all we were really worried about was getting kids on the ice. As we got further along, both the kids and their families wanted to have a bit of a game experience, so we started doing that against local teams, with our friends at the Calgary Flames Alumni, and most recently with the Edmonton Fire Department.”

Kevin also acknowledged that there was – and still is – room for the program and the players to grow. “The next step in these players’ development, is to find a way to allow SuperHEROS to play against other teams – and with other SuperHEROS as well, to really get them these cool experiences that only come from playing on a team.”
As it turned out, the Spring Friendship Series was exactly that next step the SuperHEROS community needed.

A typical hockey tournament inadvertently creates barriers to young people living with physical or cognitive disabilities. Things like changes in routine, the stress of competition, crowds, and wet equipment are all part of that tournament experience, but also can be barriers for SuperHEROS players, putting this experience out of reach for many families in our community.

The Spring Friendship Series was created with all this in mind, offering a safe and inclusive space where SuperHEROS players would feel comfortable and supported throughout the entire weekend.

“So many of the kids typically wouldn’t have been able to handle this crowded, loud environment”, says Kelly, a SuperHEROS mom from Calgary. “But being here with their teammates and coaches just gives them the confidence boost they need to play and have fun.”

Tammy, another SuperHEROS parent, was also taken aback by the sense of community created by everyone at the rink.

“It was wonderful seeing how many people encouraged my son, James. He ran into people he played with in the past and they remembered him. It warmed my heart to see these interactions,” said Tammy.

In true SuperHEROS fashion, it wasn’t just the players who benefitted from this welcoming environment. Tammy explained the support extended to the parents and families of the players as well.

“Sometimes it can be hard finding other parents that understand our journey,” said Tammy. “But at the tournament I had a wonderful conversation with a mother from Regina. We spoke about school and exchanged numbers to keep in touch.”

The weekend truly had a place for everyone and anyone who wanted to be a part of it, including members of the Grinders, a local rec league team that helped raise nearly $30,000 to support the tournament and even went a step further than that, spending the whole weekend at the rink, playing with and cheering on their new SuperHEROS teammates.

The Amp Flames Para Hockey Team and the Seeing Ice Dogs Blind Hockey Team were also a big part of the tournament, playing games with HEROS players from Calgary, and giving those HEROS new ways to enjoy game they love, while teaching them a valuable lesson about how the game can be adapted to fit different communities.

“If you think about all the groups that have been forgotten about or have felt left out of hockey, we’ve been able to bring all those groups together this weekend, and this is what hockey is supposed to be all about.”, said Kevin Hodgson.

And while the weekend was full of those big moments, from HEROS kids learning how to play with a blind hockey puck, to first goals being scored, it also created thousands of small moments that had just as much of an impact on players and their families.

Karen, a SuperHEROS mom from Calgary, recalled one of those small moments with her own son, Noah.

Playing with a different team for the final game of the weekend, Noah had quickly made a connection with one of his new teammates. At the end of the game, his new friend skated right over to Noah for a celebratory hug, and to make sure they could be together for the team photo.

It’s important to note that Noah has been with SuperHEROS since 2018 and has been in many a team photo, but for some reason has never taken the typical goaltender spot in the front row, kneeling or sprawled out on the ice in front of the team.

“I’ve never seen him take a knee at practice. I don’t know if it’s a sensory thing or a confidence thing, but he’s never done it.”, said Karen.

As they were lining up for the picture, Noah’s teammate continued to tug on his jersey, wanting them to be in the front row together – and for the first time in his SuperHEROS career, Noah the Goalie found himself in his rightful spot in the front row of his team’s picture.

“To a typical person, that’s not a big deal. But for us, for Noah, it’s huge”, Karen proudly explained.

And it was the thousands of these little moments that made this weekend truly special. Siblings finally getting to cheer on their younger brother or sister, eating ice cream after a tough game, going for a swim in the hotel with your teammates.

The safe and inclusive environment that’s created by the SuperHEROS community helped bring these moments to life. Before joining SuperHEROS, many players wouldn’t have had the confidence to fly to a new city and spend a weekend with complete strangers, but now, knowing their teammates are always by their side, they’re able to tackle any challenge that comes their way.

Thank you so much to everyone that helped create such a special weekend including the Calgary Flames Foundation, NexGen Energy, Jeff Parry and the Grinders, and Ryley Budd’s BeABudd initiative.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can support HEROS as we create opportunities like the SuperHEROS Spring Friendship Series, please contact us at