Hannah Poshek skated around the rink at the Northstar Christian Academy for an evening practice on Nov. 17 as athletes for the Minnesota Wild Special Hockey program in Alexandria warmed up.
Poshek, 15-years-old of Lowry, sent a few pucks at the net, but it wasn’t long before she noticed one of her younger teammates who was moving across the ice on a chair with the help of his dad. Poshek wanted to retrieve the puck for them, so she skated over to help out.
“If she sees someone fall, she’s usually the first one skating over, making sure they’re OK,” Hannah’s dad, Chris Poshek, said. “She’s a very social girl, so she’s made a lot of friends throughout the league. Every year she’s trying to better herself when it comes to her play.”
All of those attributes added up for Hannah for her to receive a statewide honor this past summer when she was named the Minnesota Special Hockey Athlete of the Year.
Minnesota Special Hockey provides kids and adults with disabilities the chance to play hockey against players of their own skill level with teams all around Minnesota. The Alexandria program, which has 18 players this season, was one of the first to join the league when it expanded to the outstate area.
Hannah has played with the team since she was 7 years old, and a press release from Minnesota Special Hockey announcing her as the athlete of the year said she exemplified what the league was all about. Hannah was diagnosed with epilepsy at 13 months old and has also been diagnosed with ADHD, a developmental delay and a flat foot disorder.
When she was just over a year old, Hannah often suffered anywhere from 50-100 absence seizures a day. For her, the seizures often last about 1-2 seconds.
“She might be having a normal conversation at the supper table with us and in mid-sentence, she stops and there’s a blank stare,” Chris, who has epilepsy himself, said. “Then she comes in and goes right back into what she was talking about, or she might say, ‘Where was I again?’
The seizures still occur for her occasionally, but they are few and far between now. When she was 8, the family met with an Epileptologist through the University of Minnesota Health MINCEP Epilepsy Care. Through that, they were able to make medication adjustments and changes to Hannah’s diet that have resulted in limited seizure activity since she was almost 9 years old.
“Even though I have epilepsy, it doesn’t stop me from playing hockey,” Hannah said. “I feel like now it’s kind of like my home. When I first did it, I was scared...Even though you’re scared, you should always try something new.”
Chris and his wife, Sheila, encourage Hannah to try her hand in a lot of activities. If she starts something, she sticks it out for at least one season to really get a feel for how she likes it.
In addition to hockey, Hannah is in dance, gymnastics and FFA and says she loves them all the same. She competes in Special Olympic activities. She also sings, performing the National Anthem before a lot of Minnesota Special Hockey events.
“It’s amazing to me. She has epilepsy, but she’s just like any other kid,” Chris said. “It’s not something that’s going to define her. We have to control it with medicine and watch her out there in a certain sense, but she’s pretty much like any other normal kid when it comes to playing hockey or in dance or any extracurricular activity.”
Hannah said she doesn't think about the possibility of having a seizure when she’s on the ice. Her focus at the rink is on having fun with friends.
“I don’t really worry about it too much,” Chris said. “Being in the league for as long as we’ve been in the league now, everybody knows about her seizure condition. Usually, my wife and I are both here at every practice, or at least one of us is. I think with her seizure type, we don’t worry a ton about it. She’s been able to meet Wild players and NHL alumni, go to national and international tournaments.”
Everything good about what Minnesota Special Hockey provides has outweighed the limited risk that Hannah has when skating, Chris said. She’s going to live her life to the fullest, which is exactly what the league is set up to help athletes do.
“It’s amazing,” Chris said. “We have players who drive from Morris, who drive from Donnelly. It’s nice to have this in this area for kids and adults who have disabilities who are watching hockey. Now they have a place to come and play hockey like anybody else.”