What I Learned Watching Marian Hossa

On June 21, 2017 I learned that my favorite NHL player of all time, Marian Hossa, would miss the next season due to a progressive skin disease. This could also mark the end of his career.

Hossa has played in 19 NHL seasons, and has won three Stanley Cubs with the Chicago Blackhawks. I cheered when he scored. I felt sick when he was removed from the ice on a stretcher after a brutal hit. Why do I like Hossa so much? For a lot of reasons. I’m in the beginning of my sled hockey career, but in my two seasons I’ve applied much that I learned from watching #81.

You’re never too old to compete.
As of this writing, Hossa is 38 years old, which is old for an NHL player. You could excuse him for trailing off. But in the 2016-17 season, he had 26 goals and 19 assists, which was third on the team. That’s good for any player, of any age. He’s had slow years, which prompted people to speculate that he’s at the end of his productive years, but he’s always bounced back. If it weren’t for this medical condition, he’d planned on returning next season.

As of now, I am 45 years old. I’m not competing at the NHL level. But it’s encouraging to know that an athlete who’s nearly my age can still compete at the highest level in his sport, and can keep up with other players half his age.

Train hard, and train for strength.
Hossa has been described as a “Greek god” when it comes to fitness. At 6’1″ and 210 lb he’s big and he’s strong as bull. He maintains his fitness by serious off-ice training, and the benefits show on the ice. Some of my favorite plays involve him holding off one (or even two) players with his left arm, controlling the puck with a stick in his right hand, and driving toward the net. That’s not something every player can do, and it requires a lot of strength. That strength also shows itself in his speed. At 38, he’s still one of the fastest Blackhawks.

I’ve been strength training for years, and I’ve kept it up throughout the season. I find that training to provide a real advantage on the ice in many ways.

Be good at all aspects of the game, and play where they put you.
Hossa is known as an end-to-end player. He plays at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill. While he’s not the most prolific scorer, he’s spent a lot of time on the top line next to Toews due to his all around play. In 2016-17, Hossa spent time on the third line for some of the season. He never complained, and stated that he’s happy to play and would contribute in any way they needed him.

I’m often put into similar situations on the ice. I’ve had to keep my ego in check as I was moved from forward to defense. But I always try to keep in mind that my purpose is to help my team win.

Be a class act.
Hossa will also be missed in the locker room. He’s highly regarded as a great teammate and all around good guy. Despite a serious injury to his back and a major concussion, he kept going and didn’t give up. He’ll be remembered for that great attitude as much as his great play.

Good luck, Big Hoss. You will be missed.

HandiChap Reviews: Amusement Parks

The HandiChap is an ongoing project in which I review places and activities from the perspective of a person with a disability.

I started going to the “big” amusement parks in the early 1970’s, when once a year, my family would load up the station wagon and drive us to Florida for a few days in Walt Disney World before heading to the beach. Being born in 1971, the same year Disney World opened, I kind of grew up with the place. I also got to witness first hand how handicapped access policies have evolved over the years. Years later, in my 20’s, I developed a taste for thrill rides when my wife Candice convinced me to try the roller coasters at Six Flags Great America in Chicago. Up to that point there was no way I’d go on anything that hung you upside down. But most guys will do anything for a cute girl.

One important concept to remember is that normally rides are usually designed with passenger loading in one area, and passenger unloading in another area. Often you will enter on one side of the ride and exit on the other side of the ride. This means your wheel chair will have to be on the exit side when the ride ends.

Here are a few highlights (and lowlights) of my recent amusement park adventures.

Six Flags Great America, Chicago
Located just north of Chicago, this is within driving distance for me, so it’s the park I frequent most often. There are a lot of great rides, including several inversion coasters. The rides themselves are accessible via the exit ramp. The policy is that you visit an information desk when you arrive. You are then given an access pass listing all the “big” rides. Someone in your party takes this pass to the exit ramp of one of the rides, where an employee writes a time in one of the boxes on the pass. This is your return time. This time reflects the current wait time for someone in the normal line. You are free to do other things such as eat or go on some of the “smaller”, less busy rides, but you can’t get a return time for any other rides until you have ridden one ride first. When your return time arrives, you go up the exit ramp, wait a few minutes, and are loaded onto the ride.

On its face, this seems like a fair system. You are waiting as long as everyone else, but you don’t have to stay in line. However, in my experience, there are some major problems. First, the pass only allows the holder and three other people to enter the ride. So if you have more than three companions, the rest of your party will have to wait in line and not ride with you. Because I have a family of five, someone is always left out. Second, someone in your party is required to go up the exit ramp to the ride in order to get a return time. Sometimes the ramps are very long and involve a lot of ramps. So if two people in chairs are at the park together, someone is going to get tired rather quickly.

And third, the deal breaker. After your first visit of the season, you have to produce a letter from your doctor stating that you are disabled in order to get an access pass. You read that right. Even if you are in a wheel chair and have an obvious disability such as an amputation. No exceptions, you need a note from your doctor. I found this to be insulting and intrusive, and for this reason, I won’t be going back to Six Flags parks. Which is a shame, because they really do have some great rides.

HandiChap Rating: TWO CRUTCHES DOWN

Universal Studios, Florida
Admittedly, I haven’t been to Universal Studies in a few years, so their policies may have changed. However, I will base this review on my last visit.

Universal has a lot of great rides and attractions. At the time of my visit, Universal allowed wheel chair access not via the exit, but via the entrance using the normal, accessible line. Because of this, there was no limit to the number in your party. But because you entered on one side of the ride, someone would have to move a wheel chair to the exit while you are on the ride. Unfortunately the staff refused to do this, so someone in your party would have to skip the ride and move your chair. This breaks up your party and makes someone miss out. I also found the staff to be younger and not very well trained.

HandiChap Rating: ONE CRUTCH UP

Walt Disney World, Florida
I may appear biased because I have been to Disney parks in Florida so many times. However, the accessibility is one reason I keep coming back. For me, Walt Disney World in Florida is the gold standard for accessibility and has been ahead of every other park since the beginning.

Disney World is composed of four major parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), as well as two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach). The policies depend on each park and each ride may vary, so you will have to check with an employee before getting in line. This is because the rides were built up to 45 years ago, so accessibility will vary. Newer rides have accessible entrance lines. The employees seem well trained, and I have not met one yet who did not have an excellent grasp of the handicap policies for the ride they were working.

At Magic Kingdom, you are given an access pass much like the one in Six Flags, which you present at the exit in order to get a return time. However, this is only necessary for a few rides. Most will either allow you to wait in the normal line, or allow you to enter the ride via the exit after a short wait. After each ride, your chair will be waiting for you at the ride exit, even if an employee has to move your chair for you. There is no limit to the number in your party. I recently visited with a party of eight, and had no problem. Access at the other parks is the same, except that they do not require an access pass.

Transportation between parks (if you are staying at a Disney hotel) is provided via buses. These buses have changed and improved over the years. Currently, every bus is accessible via a ramp, and can hold up to two wheel chairs or scooters, which are strapped in the bus. Disabled riders are loaded on the bus first.

All other buildings such as restaurants and hotels are equipped with ramps and elevators.

Blizzard Beach is also accessible for the most part, via ramps and a ski lift that includes an accessible gondola. For some slides, you can use one of their water wheel chairs for free, so you don’t have to have someone move your chair to the end of the slide. I did not visit Typhoon Lagoon recently, so I can’t comment on accessibility, but according to employees, it is not accessible.

In all cases, Disney employees have leaned to the side of being more accommodating and lenient. I have never been given a hard time and have always felt welcome. I’ve also seen employees stretch the rules for me on several occasions.

HandiChap Rating: TWO CRUTCHES UP

So Now I’m Writing a Blog

This web site has been in a state of flux since I bought the domain name years ago. Which I think is a good thing. It’s fun to have the web site that goes with your name. If your last name is Jones or Smith, you’re out of luck, unless you have a unique first name. If your name is Adolph Hitler Jones, you might be able to snag AdolphHitlerJones.net. So I am grateful I’m the first Hanusin on the planet to make a GoDaddy account.

What to do with this great web site? My first thought was to showcase my artwork. But right now I’m not producing enough “finished” work to make it worth while for people to visit from time to time. Which means the web site is sitting in a dusty corner of the Internet. I kind of like writing, but what should I write about? Here’s where it gets interesting. I tend to do a lot of things. I’m involved in art, and roller derby, and sled hockey. I have a wife and kids. I like to cook and I like to eat. I have a huge garden in the summer. I have a desk job where I program things. I read a lot. I could write about that stuff. Just to be sure, I wrote out a list of things I could write about. And you know, it turned out to be kind of long.

So, here we are, Blog Post #1 of the new, improved Hanusin.com. I can’t promise regular posts, or that I’ll even keep this up for very long. I also can’t promise that everyone will like every post. But, my aim with each post is to either entertain or inform at least one person. That person might be different every time, but hopefully it’s at least one.