It’s not the most elegant solution, but for decades the Montreal Hiboux hockey team has used a tin can in place of a puck.
It’s painted black, bigger and noisier than a traditional hockey puck, which allows visually-impaired people to play the game they love.
“The game is almost sometimes secondary to what I would call the group therapy that goes on, because it allows people with handicaps to do something that they thought was not possible,” said player Francois Beauregard.
In partnership with UQAM, the team is helping to develop an adaptive puck they hope will make blind hockey a Paralympic sport.
The tin can has its shortcomings: it doesn't make noise unless it’s in motion, it doesn't make noise in the air, and it often only lasts about 15 minutes.
UQAM engineering professor Mounir Boukadoum and his colleague Frederic Nabki are part of a team at the school trying to design a better way to play by creating a puck players can hear coming.
“There is this chip, a very small chip with a hole in it and that includes all the sensors that we need to determine the speed the acceleration, the altitude of the puck in real time,” said Nabki.
That technology makes the puck beep slower when stationary and faster when it's on the move.
The Montreal Hiboux have been testing the prototypes and giving their feedback.
“We're looking to standardize the object because if we have a standardized object then we can have ambitions to become [a Paralympic sport],” Beauregard said.