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NYSID News Blog

February 21, 2013

The Puck Stops Here

Category: General — NYSID @ 6:51 pm

Wayne Gretzky was nicknamed “the Great One” for his exploits as a hockey player. Zachary Durkee is pretty great, himself –– and not just for his own success on the ice.

A 2012 Joslin Outstanding Performer from the Fulton County Chapter of NYSARC, Inc./Lexington Industries, Zach is a member of the Albany Cougars Special Hockey Club, which provides an amateur athletic hockey program for youths and adults with developmental disabilities. He has evolved from a novice skater to a skilled defenseman over the past 12 years, much to the delight of his coaches.

Zach Durkee (third from left), Coach Bill Englander (fourth from left) and the Albany Cougars

 

“Zach has always been a coach’s dream. He listens to what we have to say and does his best in each and every practice and game,” Coach Pete Harvey said. “He starts every game with the same question, ‘What do you want me to do, Coach?’ My answer is always the same, ‘Nobody comes into Zack’s house! Keep everybody away from our goal,’ and he responds, ‘You got it.’ He spends the rest of the game making sure nobody gets into his house.”

The Albany Cougars program is open to girls and boys, men and women who are physically able but are ineligible or unable to participate in an existing organized hockey program due to developmental disabilities. A member organization of USA Hockey, Special Hockey International and the American Special Hockey Association, the Albany Cougars conduct practices at the Albany County Hockey Facility in Loudonville, where they host their own tournament. The club also travels to tournaments hosted by other special needs hockey clubs, giving its participants a total team experience.

Zach came to the Albany Cougars at the age of 15, and though he lacked experience, he possessed a willingness to learn and listen. “He could stand on skates, but that was about it,” Harvey said. “Through his hard work and dedication, he learned how to skate and how to play the game of hockey. While he would love to score goals with the same frequency of Wayne Gretzky, he understands that he can best help the team as a defenseman, and he has taken on that role with enthusiasm for a number of years.”

Last year, NYSID named Zach one of its 59 Joslin Outstanding Performers; the awards program annually recognizes New Yorkers with disabilities for achieving employment success. Zach was presented with his Joslin Outstanding Performer Award by his cousin, Donna Allen, NYSID’s supervisor of customer service, and Joe Messina, NYSID’s vice president of sales, during The Lexington Gala in Gloversville last October.

Not only is Zach a great teammate to his fellow Albany Cougars, he’s also an awesome big brother. His younger brother, Gabe, skates with the Cougars, and Zach is constantly looking out for him –– both on and off the ice. Two years ago, Zach’s mission of keeping everyone away from the Cougars’ goal became more personal when Gabe realized his dream of becoming a goaltender. “Keeping our house in order is now a family affair, and Zach pulls double duty protecting our end of the ice and making sure no one messes with Gabe,” Coach Harvey said. “I can’t think of a better person for the job.”

Zach manages his jam-packed schedule with lots of enthusiasm, emerging as a strong leader to his peers and teammates. He has shown that by pursuing a wide array of programs, services and activities, he has been able to become more independent and competent in all aspects of his life, “a Zach of all trades,” as he’s known at Lexington.

For more information about the Albany Cougars Special Hockey Club, visit http://www.albanycougars.org.

 

 

 

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