A dream comes true for young Avalanche hockey fan
Originally published in Vail Daily on September 19, 2022
The Avalanche Alumni Weekend was not only a big weekend that raised funds for youth hockey in the Vail Valley but also raised the spirits of one hockey fan, Jordan Cox.
Jordan, or “Jordy,” as he’s better known by family and friends, had a chance to experience learning so much about the sport he loves from players he admires. The alumni weekend brought in several of those players, who used to suit up night after night, to Dobson Arena in Vail. Clinics were held with the Avs Alumni and the Vail Mountaineer Youth Hockey Club during the day, and even though Jordy doesn’t play for the Mountaineers, he got a special invite.
John Weiss is the executive director of Small Champions, an organization that helps kids focus on their abilities not their disabilities. Small Champions offers sports and recreation programs to youth in Eagle County that have physical and cognitive differing abilities. Weiss was contacted by one of the sponsors of the Avalanche Alumni Weekend, Frontgate Avon.
“In my first conversation with Frontgate Avon, when they outlined the generous offer they were making, it was immediately obvious that Jordan and his family would be a great fit to participate in the Avalanche Alumni Weekend. Jordan is a huge hockey fan, Avs fan and plays in a sled-hockey league in Denver. It was perfect!” Weiss said.
The amazing opportunity was to bring Jordy on the ice during the youth hockey clinics that were being hosted on Sept. 10 at Dobson Arena.
Jordan was born premature and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age, affecting his extremities. He has been with Small Champions for nine years and began skiing at five years old as a sit-down skier in a bi-ski tethered by one of their ski instructors. In just a couple of years, Jordan’s determination and development allowed him to move out of the bi-ski to stand-up skiing with the use of another piece of adaptive skiing equipment known as a slider. Jordan continues to ski with a slider and coach.
“Jordan has participated in many of our Small Champions activities both winter and summer over the past nine years doing activities like rock climbing, swimming, horseback riding, mini-golf, bungee tramp and many other activities. So, I knew he’d be up for this,” Weiss said.
When Jordy’s family was approached with the offer to have Jordy be a part of the on-ice clinics, Jordy’s father, Jorma, said Jordy was excited at first, but then became a little apprehensive.
“We immediately accepted the offer from Frontgate Avon and were extremely grateful for the donation and this opportunity, but then Jordy went through a range of emotions and apprehension,” Jorma said. “But then he rebounded and became really motivated for the on-ice portion and he had some friends and classmates who were in the clinics, too, so that helped.”
One of the Avalanche alumni who got to work with Jordy was John-Michael Liles, who now resides in the Vail Valley and is on the board of directors of both the Avalanche Alumni Association and the Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club.
“Being able to share hockey experiences with all sorts of kids is a special thing that each of our alumni get to do, and sharing the ice with Jordy during the skills clinics put a smile on each of our faces,” Liles said.
This wasn’t Jordy’s first time on the ice. He’s involved with a program and team, Colorado Sled Hockey, in Denver. But Jordy was all smiles as he got to work with Avs Alumni Al Conroy, who skated with him. Jordy got to practice at each station and was included equally in all the drills and the scrimmage.
“He even got a quality shot on goal!” Jorma said. “John-Michael Liles fed him an incredible pass that just missed the net. For Jordan to be in that position and play his favorite sport with some of these legends, he will never forget this. The USA Hockey/NHL #hockeyisforeveryone slogan and campaign rang true. He was on cloud nine!”
The apprehension Jordy held earlier went away, especially when he had to give the locker room talk.
“He was a bit nervous about doing the locker room talk, but after skating with many of the Avs players, he was so happy to have a chance to talk to them and share his story,” Jorma said.
“Jordy already has an amazing love for hockey, which was extremely evident in his pregame speech to our alumni, and our hope is that his interactions with our players helped that love to grow even more,” Liles said.
Jordy’s parents credit his ability to rise to these opportunities because of the growth and skills he’s learned at Small Champions.
“Our son is growing up with a great deal of confidence, abilities and insight. He has shared many experiences with others and taught many people about his own disabilities as well as others,” Jorma said.
“Jordan is truly a Small Champion in his own right, raising the bar on how our families, peers and his acquaintances understand what disability means.”