ST. PAUL (AP) -- A program for blind hockey players is giving experienced and novice players a chance to get on the ice in Minnesota.

Eighteen players have joined the Minnesota Wild Blind Hockey program, which is the first of its kind in the state. Toni Gillen, disabled programs director for USA Hockey in Minnesota, says she didn't realize how big it would be when the program first started.

She says the response has been "amazing,'' and she anticipates the program will grow next year.

Nicholas Boisvert, a 35-year-old program participant, grew up playing hockey, but a degenerative condition took roughly 80 percent of his sight in his late 20s. Boisvert says he missed hockey, and the new program is giving him the chance to play again.