MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In team sports, the focus is never on just one player but there’s no denying that Bekah Lorsung is a standout on her hockey team, the New Hope Raptors.

It’s not just because of her leadership even though she’s the captain of the team. Her biggest contribution is her impact on the game.

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“She doesn’t want to always take credit for being the inspiration behind it, I think, but she is and has to be proud of it,” said Susie Miller, Minnesota Special Hockey founder.

Bekah is the reason 174 players take the ice every Sunday as part of the Minnesota special hockey league. Nine years ago, family friend Susie Miller saw Bekah had few options once she aged out of youth clubs.

“It felt bad because I want hockey in my life, in my blood,” said Bekah Lorsung, the inspiration behind Minnesota Special Hockey. “There was floor hockey, polly hockey, everything but ice hockey–stand up ice hockey for people with developmental disabilities,” Miller said.

Bekah has a mental impairment that can make learning and taking instruction difficult.

“It’s hard to give her instructions. Sometimes, she doesn’t understand instructions like go down and get this but, yet, she understands how to play hockey,” said Lanette Lorsung, Bekah’s mom.

Susie’s solution to keep Bekah on the ice was to create a an entirely new league.

“We wanted every single person in Minnesota, who wanted to play hockey, to play hockey,” Miller said.

Minnesota Special Hockey doesn’t let age or disability keep players from the rink.

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“We have an individual who’s blind, people with down syndrome, autism, all different varying epilepsy. Also, people who just need extra attention or direction,” Miller said.

The first year started with 20 players on two teams in the Twin Cities…
This year, the program has 10 teams around the state and it continues to grow.

“In 2006 we never thought there would be 174 players,” Miller said.

Skill isn’t the emphasis instead, athletes develop the desire to be a team player.

“I don’t want to be the scorer, I want to help the team get better every day,” Bekah said.

“That’s a lifelong tool, learning to work with other people,” Lanette said.

For Bekah, the league not only allows her to continue the game she loves, it allows her to share her love of hockey with those who never had the chance to play.

“It really is her legacy to say she was the inspiration behind this,” Lanette said.

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Minnesota Special Hockey also makes sure cost is not an issue when joining. The league pays for ice time, offers scholarships and also helps families get the right hockey equipment.