Sledge Hockey the Paralympics way. It is Not an Easy Game.
Sledge hockey is a sport that was introduced during the 1994 Lillehammer Games in Norway. The game is very similar to ice hockey in that each team has a goalie, two defensemen and three forwards. Players manoeuvre themselves around the ice by the use of two sticks. These are three feet long and have spikes on the end allowing the player to dig in and propel himself along the surface.
The player sits on a sledge with runners to allow the puck to pass underneath. The players must be disabled. Here we will take a look at each facet of this most interesting game.
Sledge hockey had its beginnings in Sweden where a group of friends who had various disabilities began look for a way to play hockey even though they were disabled. At first they played without a goalie. After a few years the game was gaining in popularity and by 1980 the game had caught on so that international tournaments were started. By 1982 the game was popular in Sweden, Norway, Canada, USA and Great Britain. By 1993 Japan and Estonia had teams.
Sweden used their early knowledge to win the first Paralympic Winter Games in Norway and the game has been very popular ever since.
The sticks are approximately one third the length of a regular hockey stick. They can be made of one or two pieces of wood and they are strengthened with layers of fibreglass. The picks on the end must not be sharp and must not protrude from the end more than 1 cm. The picks do not damage the ice.
The goalie stick has a pick on the heel end as well as the toe. The sticks are so designed as to allow the player to shoot the puck as well as use it for propulsion.
The Sledge is made of aluminium for lightweight, but others are made of steel. The special blades are made of tempered spring steel 3mm thick. The height of the frame is high enough to allow the puck to slide underneath. The player sits in the bucket, which is set up for his body configuration depending upon his particular disability. Special braces are fitted to the sledge to allow the players feet, ankles, knees and hips to be held in place without slipping or loosening.
Generally where possible, the arenas where the games are played have the players benches constructed with a very low entry with Plexiglas instead of wood where the boards are. This allows for easier entry to the bench and the sledge hockey players can see the action from where they sit.
If the arena is not set up this way the players will stay on the ice between the red and blue lines while not playing.
Sledge hockey is a hard-hitting sport. The puck is moving very fast and the players are battling it out with sticks.
Because of this, the players must wear protective helmets with full-face screens. They also wear special padded gloves, shoulder pads with neck protection, shin pads and elbow pads. All of these offer a good layer of protection. The goalie will also wear a special catcher mitt to handle the puck that may hit speeds of up to 80 or 90 km. The puck is made of solid, vulcanised rubber and is 3 inches in diameter.
About the author: Joe and Irma Mac Millan have enjoyed the Whistler Mountain and valley area of British Columbia for many years. They have camped, hiked and skied the mountains and fished and kayaked the rivers and lakes. Their website http://www.whistler-outdoors.com/ is a must visit for anyone considering a trip to Whistler as well as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. They invite one and all to take a look.