Sledge Hockey is the Paralympic version of ice hockey. It is fast-paced, highly physical, and played by athletes with a physical disability in the lower part of the body. Sledge hockey is an extremely exciting game for players and spectators and is currently played in 15 countries.
Similar to ice hockey, each team has six players on the ice, including the goaltender. Teams are comprised of a maximum 15 male players per team, including two goaltenders. Games consist of three 15-minute stop-time periods. Each team attempts to outscore its opponent by shooting the puck (a hard rubber disc) across the ice and into the opposing team's goal while preventing the opposing team from scoring. Instead of players sitting on a bench when they aren’t playing, which in most rinks is inaccessible, they sit on the ice along the boards between the blueline and redline. For penalties, the players sit in the semi-circle in front of the penalty box until their penalty time is over.
Instead of wearing skates, each player sits strapped to a two-blade sledge that is raised high enough to allow the puck to pass beneath. Players also use two 75cm long hockey sticks, with spikes on one end and blades on the other. The spike is used to propel the sledge across the ice while the slightly curved blade is used to handle the puck. The goaltender may have an additional pick at the base end of his stick and may use an additional stick with a blade or a trapper glove with teeth.
There are many opportunities throughout Ontario to get started playing Sledge Hockey. There are Junior and Intermediate leagues for players of all ages and skills, and different club teams a player can join - able bodied people are welcome to play as well, although some restrictions apply when getting to national level.
Sledge Hockey is a team sport where leaders develop, not to mention a great workout and if you aren’t up for joining a team just yet, you must get out to watch a game – if there is one thing that all hockey players have in common, its passion and passion always delivers a good hockey game! For information on playing Sledge Hockey in Ontario, visit the Ontario Sledge Hockey Association (OSHA).