Launch of Volt Hockey in Boston with the help of a student from the Northeast

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Dylan Hogan knew nothing about volt hockey a year ago. Last weekend in Sweden, the pre-med student from the northeast found himself coaching an inspired team of wheelchair players at the sport’s inauguration world Cup.

“It turned out to be an incredible experience in every way,” says Hogan, a fourth-year biology student. “The players all really enjoyed it, and they learned so much from the start to the end of the tournament.”

Hockey Volt, a new sport in North America, is played by people with disabilities in specially designed electric wheelchairs made of wood and equipped with a paddle in the front to control a ball. Teams of three players each compete to score goals while maneuvering their chairs by joystick at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour.

Portrait of Dylan Hogan
Hogan, a fourth-year biology student, discovered the sport over the past year. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Hogan was introduced to the sport in a roundabout way last fall while taking a specialty course, Contemporary Issues in Health Care, taught by Lorna Hayward, Northeast Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, Movement Sciences and Rehabilitation. To fulfill the class’s community service obligation, he was assigned to Boston Self Help Center (BSHC), a non-profit organization run by and for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Since 2012, the BSHC has sponsored the Boston Brakemen team in the sport of power wheelchair soccer, in which players with disabilities seek to advance and score a large ball. The success of this venture encouraged Kim Damato, a BSHC board member whose family operates the New England company Rehab Equipment Associatesto raise $61,000 to purchase half a dozen Volt hockey chairs.

Hogan took charge of the fledgling Volt hockey program, known as the Boston Whiplash. Over 30 potential players have expressed interest in trying the sport.

“In the first practice, the players learned how to maneuver the chairs and how to play the game,” says Hogan. “Five of the players we brought to Sweden met for the first time at this event.”

World Cup organizers in Sweden heard of the growing interest in Boston and invited the Whiplash to participate in the inaugural World Cup from September 16-18. Hogan took on the complex challenge of organizing the trip, which impressed Hayward.

“Dylan arranged flights and other travel logistics for a crew of seven in wheelchairs,” says Hayward, who over the years has led more than 215 physical therapy students on international service trips to Ecuador, China and in Mexico. “International travel is generally difficult to navigate and is currently made more difficult by COVID precautions. For the Volt Hockey Group, the process was further complicated by additional factors such as traveling with equipment, wheelchairs used for daily mobility and personal luggage.

“Dylan is both impressive and inspiring in his desire and ability to execute this World Cup journey while maintaining a full course load this fall,” adds Hayward. “Dylan is an exemplary student and leader and also shows humility in his endeavors.”

Hogan and Amanda Bell, a Northeastern senior in data science and behavioral neuroscience who volunteered to help, traveled with the team by train and van from Boston to Newark for a nonstop flight to Stockholm. – 26 hours in all. In Gävle, a small coastal town where 22 teams from six countries competed, the sole American entry was greeted with gratitude.

“What struck us was how supportive everyone was,” Hogan says. “The sport is centralized in Scandinavia – most of the teams are from Norway, Denmark and Sweden – and I think they see our participation, as well as Canada’s, as huge potential for growth. They know that if it happens in the United States, it could really explode.

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