The Gateway Locomotives Hockey Association was founded by Tony Sansone, Jr. with help from Kelly Chase, Jim Hermann and several of Tony’s friends and was modeled after a program near Toronto, Canada, that Tony had read about.
The Gateway Locomotives’ inaugural skate was January 31, 1994, and included 17 athletes and 12 coaches. The Locomotives was the first program to offer an organized ice hockey program for youth and adults with developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome and Autism in the U.S.A.
Today, there are over 50 teams in 30 cities with 1,500 players participating in similar programs across the U.S. In November 1994 the first-ever game between two separate hockey teams with developmental disabilities was held in St. Louis. The Gateway Locomotives played the Grandravine Tornadoes from Toronto, Canada, and memorabilia from that game is on exhibit in The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
In 1996 representatives from special hockey teams in St. Louis, Denver, New York, Toronto and Ottawa met in St. Louis to form a league for teams to compete in International play. This league, Special Hockey International or SHI, now has almost 4,000 players on 75-plus teams in Canada, 50 teams in the USA and 2 teams in London. SHI Tournaments are held annually at different clubs in Canada and the USA.
The goal of Gateway Locomotives is to give people with Developmental Disabilities the chance to play the sport of ice hockey in an environment that is adapted to the level of ability which the athletes are able to participate. The Gateway Locomotives exists for the enrichment of the athlete with a Developmental Disability.
In addition to hockey skills, the program emphasizes the development of desirable individual characteristics such as dependability, self-reliance, concentration, willingness to share and personal accountability. Hockey is also used to develop within each player the characteristics that will help the player to be more successful both inside and outside a hockey environment.