|Joe Howe from the Special Hockey Program has been named the recipient of the 2006 USA Hockey Disabled Athlete of the Year. Joe will be honored at the USA Hockey Annual Congress on Wednesday, June 7, 2006 during the President's Dinner.
When Joe Howe says that hockey turned his life around
for the better, he isn't exaggerating.
Howe, 34, resides in Annapolis, Maryland and has played for the Washington Ice Dogs for six years.
For the past four years, he has worked at a Safeway
grocery store in Annapolis.
Joe lives in a group home with two other residents and his guardian, Walter Boydston of Langton Green, Inc., an agency that oversees residential settings for developmentally challenged people.
Joe enjoys his work, and his current surroundings are proper and professional – but it wasn’t always that way. He was placed with Langton Green after the State of Maryland removed him from his former residence, where he was verbally abused by people who were paid to care for him.
Howe has “had a very rough life,” Boydston said. “They would call him stupid, retarded, dumb – every name you could imagine. They would lock him in his room, wouldn’t let him use the phone. He couldn’t have company. He was being ‘warehoused.’” Not surprisingly, Howe had very low self-esteem.
But, as he transferred to the Langton Green facility, things would change for the better. He found work at the U.S. Naval Academy and began playing in a pickup hockey league with Navy personnel (his first time playing the sport). Members of the Academy’s hockey team befriended Joe and referred him to the local Special Hockey program.
“That’s where his life really began to change,” noted Mike Hickey, president of the American Special Hockey Association and founder and coach of the Washington Ice Dogs. “He found a home with Special Hockey and with Langton Green. He developed friendships and took on responsibility and felt better about himself. The structure helped. The results, like they say in the commercial, are priceless.”
Previously, Howe had trouble focusing and would move from one menial job to another. “Hockey changed things,” Boydston said. “The coaches were strict. He had to follow rules. The coaches helped him with his temper. That was six years ago. Once Joe started playing with the Ice Dogs, his behavior improved. He got a job and kept it, and there’s no question hockey played an important role in that achievement. He also has new friends. Honestly, I’m amazed.”
Hickey added, “Joe’s love for the game has helped him find his niche and helped him become a contributing member of society. His story embodies what our sport is all about. Hockey has done a lot for Joe – but make no mistake, he also has done a lot for hockey.”
Joe has become a team leader with the Washington Ice Dogs (A team). He also works with the younger Ice Dog team (C team) as a mentor teaching hockey skills and also being a positive role model that the younger players look up to. Joe has worked very hard to achieve the highest level of respect from coaches and other players and we remain very proud of his accomplishments.
Congratulations Joe on your Accomplishments