Hockey Player Wears Special Goalie Mask to Honor Brother on the Autism Spectrum

Brandon Bussi is a star goalie for the Western Michigan University hockey team, one of the top ranked squads in the nation. While his play and his team garner attention for their work on the ice, he’s bringing something to the game that he hopes will highlight a cause important to him off the ice: autism awareness.

Bussi’s brother Dylan was diagnosed with autism as a child and is nonverbal. Currently, he lives at a supported living facility in the Bronx. As a kid, Bussi helped take care of his brother and also noticed the way others often regarded him.

He says, “Growing up, there were many occasions where people misunderstood my brother, didn’t understand that he had a disability. It’s important to understand that these are people, very smart people, and sometimes there’s just a little bit of patience needed. That’s what I learned from being with my brother.”

To help bring more awareness to the lives of those on the spectrum, Bussi decided to customize his hockey mask. He teamed up with Allen Schneider from Vice Design to create a goalie mask with puzzle pieces, a symbol associated with autism awareness. He hopes it gets an important conservation going.

The mask has already had an impact on his teammates. Bussi explains, “Some people just need to learn more about it. When (my teammates) heard the meaning of it all, they were in full support of me. I have unbelievable teammates. We’re a very close group that all supports each other no matter what in highs and lows — that’s the only way you’re going to succeed.”

Bussi hopes to play for the New York Rangers one day, which would help him live closer to his brother, for whom he strives to make life as good as possible. He says it’s been harder being away from him and unable to spend the amount of time with him that he once did. Regardless of the distance, Dylan is always on his mind.

He says, “I will always support and talk with anybody about autism and my brother. It’s something that has made me a better person. My relationship with my brother… is something I wouldn’t change for the world.”

Bussi plans to wear a puzzle piece mask as long as he’s playing competitive hockey.

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