Father and son find a place together on winning Special Olympics hockey team

Michelle Theriault Boots
During an awards ceremony goaltender Bobby Hill kissed the gold medal that he and Unified Floor Hockey teammates Matt Maillelle, left, and Nick Swallow, right, won during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Stephen LeBlanc of the Anchorage Wolf Pack fires a shot on goal during the Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Wolf Pack defeated the Anchorage Avatars 2-1.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Robert Hill and his son Bobby Hill celebrate their gold medal victory in the Unified Floor Hockey event at the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Bobby Hill, left, and his father Robert Hill, both goalies, congratulate the other team after winning a goal medal in the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Wolf Pack, red, and Avatars, blue, both of Anchorage, did battle during the Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Wolf Pack won 2-1.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Bobby Hill congratulates the other team after winning a goal medal in the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
During an awards ceremony goaltender Bobby Hill kissed the gold medal that he and Unified Floor Hockey teammates Matt Maillelle, left, and Nick Swallow, right, won during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Stephen LeBlanc of the Anchorage Wolf Pack fires a shot on goal during the Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Wolf Pack defeated the Anchorage Avatars 2-1.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Robert Hill and his son Bobby Hill celebrate their gold medal victory in the Unified Floor Hockey event at the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Bobby Hill, left, and his father Robert Hill, both goalies, congratulate the other team after winning a goal medal in the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Wolf Pack, red, and Avatars, blue, both of Anchorage, did battle during the Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Wolf Pack won 2-1.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Bobby Hill congratulates the other team after winning a goal medal in the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
During an awards ceremony goaltender Bobby Hill kissed the gold medal that he and Unified Floor Hockey teammates Matt Maillelle, left, and Nick Swallow, right, won during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Stephen LeBlanc of the Anchorage Wolf Pack fires a shot on goal during the Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Wolf Pack defeated the Anchorage Avatars 2-1.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Robert Hill and his son Bobby Hill celebrate their gold medal victory in the Unified Floor Hockey event at the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Bobby Hill, left, and his father Robert Hill, both goalies, congratulate the other team after winning a goal medal in the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Wolf Pack, red, and Avatars, blue, both of Anchorage, did battle during the Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Wolf Pack won 2-1.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Bobby Hill congratulates the other team after winning a goal medal in the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Unified Floor Hockey gold medal game of the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games was held at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth
Medal presentation ceremony for the Unified Floor Hockey event during the Special Olympics Alaska Winter Games at East High School on Sunday, March 9, 2014.
Bill Roth

The first thing Bobby Hill did when it became clear his team had won the gold medal was find his father.

He didn't need to look far.

Bob Hill, who shares most of a name and more than a passing resemblance with his son, was standing just outside the hockey oval, shouting with delight.

"Man!" he said, as the two goalies back-slapped and hugged.

Father and son play together on the Wolf Pack, a Special Olympics floor hockey team that, on Sunday, won a gold medal at the organization's statewide Winter Games, which drew hundreds of athletes from around the state and their families to Anchorage for three days. On Special Olympics "unified" teams like the Wolf Pack, people with and without intellectual disabilities compete together as teammates.

For years now the "Hill Boys," as the coach likes to call them, have been the Wolf Pack's goalkeeping duo.

In matching knee guards, red jerseys and helmets, they rotate in and out of the quick periods of Special Olympics floor hockey, sharing fist bumps and helmet-grabs.

Bob Hill, 68, credits Special Olympics and athletics in general for helping to shape his son, who has Down Syndrome, into a happy, self-assured man.

Bobby Hill relishes the chance to play alongside his father.

"I love my dad," he said with a shrug and a grin.

Athletics, especially through the Special Olympics, have been a cornerstone for the family since a tragedy in 1986, when Bobby's mother died of a brain aneurysm. After his wife's death, Hill says he knew he needed to give Bobby and his high-school aged daughter structure while he raised them as a single dad.

"I was driving back and forth to the base. I had kids at home and nobody around and I just thought, we're going to do stuff together."

They got season tickets to the Alaska Aces and traveled out of state for football games. Bobby began weight training for Special Olympics.

It paid off: In 2003, Bobby Hill won two gold medals in power lifting in the Special Olympics world championships in Ireland. In 2007, he won four silver medals at the world games in Shanghai. He can squat 350 pounds. In April, he'll participate in a South Anchorage power lifting competition not affiliated with Special Olympics.

Today, the 34-year-old's life revolves around workouts and time on the treadmill.

On weekdays, Bobby Hill says he lifts at the Special Olympics facility on Commercial Drive in Mountain View while his father works at JBER, advising young Airmen about their personal finances.

"There's nothing shy about Bobby," Bob Hill says. "He learned that through competition, being around athletes and training."

Bobby Hill's self-assurance is on display at every Alaska Aces home game, where is known for launching into a crowd-rousing act that involves galloping around behind a hockey stick decorated with a stuffed bear to the strains of the William Tell Overture.

Bobby's signature "Horse Man" act is recognized by hockey fans as far away as Minnesota, Bob Hill says.

"The players from the other team always say, ' we enjoy coming here because we love to see Bobby," he said. "And I mean, this is the other team."

The Hill family's enthusiasm for father-son sports has helped to recruit other members of the Wolf Pack.

When Raymond LeBlanc's son Stephen was diagnosed with autism, the Hills convinced the two to try floor hockey.

Playing together is "a special thing for a dad and a son," said LeBlanc, who coached the Wolf Pack team on Sunday.

"I'm just so proud of this team," he said "This is the most exciting thing I've done in my life."

Stephen LeBlanc scored the winning goal on Sunday, a fact that made his father momentarily quiet with tears.

After the Wolf Pack won gold on Sunday, the team filed up to the podium to receive their awards.

Almost everybody wanted to stand on the top step. Bobby Hill was there, flashing a double thumbs up and kissing the medal draped around his neck by a beauty queen in a sash and tiara.

His dad stood off to the side grinning with his own gold medallion.

Playing hockey with his son, "I feel nervousness, happiness. I feel like, oh man, don't score on him!" Bob Hill said. "But mostly I just feel pride."

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

 


By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
mtheriault@adn.com