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Positively Upstate: Hockey team for those with developmental disabilities

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ALBANY, NY (WRGB) - A local hockey league celebrates its 20th anniversary helping those with special needs be part of a team. In fact, you could say the Albany Cougars are more like family. They’re an all-volunteer hockey team for players of any age with developmental disabilities. From autism to down syndrome.

“We try to cater to people who can’t play anywhere else.” Team president Jeff Isaacson says.

The Cougars practice once a week and often scrimmage teams from local schools. In the past they’ve played Siena, RPI, and several high school teams.

Besides his role as president, Isaacson has another personal connection to the team; his son, Phillip. Phillip joined the Cougars 16 years ago and is now the assistant captain.

“I do a lot of things, like help people out.” He says. “Give them the puck, skate with them. I’m here to help all these people and be there for them.”

“As new players come in and they want to learn how to skate, you’ll the captains take them under their wing.” Isaacson says.

The Albany Cougars aren’t just all about learning to play hockey, the players learn about teamwork too. Isaacson says with so many people returning players each year, the friendships built both on and off the ice will last a lifetime.

“Some of the other organizations have age limits and they age out. So, once the kids get friends and get some abilities, we don’t want them to age out. They can stay playing for us as long as they want to.” Isaacson says.

The Cougars will be hosting a tournament this weekend where they’ll be playing teams from Buffalo, Rochester, New Jersey and Connecticut at the Albany Ice Rink.

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