Sledge Hockey Essay

Length: 10 pages Sources: 4 Subject: Sports Type: Essay Paper: #80186727
Excerpt from Essay :


Sledge Hockey is a terrific sport that individuals with physical disabilities can participate in. This sport was developed in the 1960s at a Swedish rehabilitation center. By modifying a metal sled (aka sledge) to fit two ice hockey skate blades under the sledge (so that a hockey puck could pass under it, the Swedes allowed themselves to be able to slide around the ice without inhibiting the movement of the hockey puck. They used round poles that had bicycle handles as sticks with which the propelled themselves across the ice—much like skiers use sticks when they are skiing long distance. Their game required no goaltenders, but other than that it was very similar in spirit to regular ice hockey: the goal was to get the puck into the goal—and instead of skating, the players sledged or sledded across the ice in the customized sledges that allowed the puck to pass under them. By the end of the 1960s, the game had won many fans, and many physically-impaired individuals wanted to play: thus, Stockholm, Sweden, fielded the first five-team league. In the league, the physically-impaired individuals and able-bodied individuals competed and played together: the sledge was the equalizer and made it so that no one individual had an advantage over another (IPC, 2017). It obtained its world debut at the Lillehammer Winter Games in 1994 and since then has become a huge draw for spectators of the Paralympics. Today it is one of the most watched sports in the Winter Paralympic Games.

How Sledge Hockey is Played

The rules of sledge hockey are basically the same as regular ice hockey. The only difference between the two games is with regard to those instances wherein the sledge must be accounted for—e.g., teeing, which is when a player charges another player with the front part of the sled (but even this is similar to body checking an opponent as is often seen in ice hockey). Holding is not allowed in the game (just as it is not allowed in able-bodied ice hockey) and in general the same rules and penalties apply. Today’s sport includes goalies and officials and all the bells and whistles of able-bodied hockey. One difference that sledge hockey must observe (because of the sledge) is the gate that allows players to come in and off the ice: it is even with the ice (USA Hockey Sled, 2009).

The sledge hockey player will attach the sledge to the underside of the legs, so that when playing the player resembles a person sitting down with his legs together stretched out in front of him. He sits on the sledge which rests under his bottom and runs down to the feet. The blade of the sledge is about the size of a hockey skate blade and sits under the player’s seat. The players wear jersey and gear (helmets too) just like ice hockey players.

Players with and without legs may play (regardless of whether one has legs or not, they are rendered useless due to the design of the sledge). Thus, it is not uncommon to see players who have no legs or one leg playing the sport. The legs are not needed because the players propel themselves across the ice using their sticks—one for each hand—which is similar to the way players will propel themselves in wheelchairs, using their arms to create the motion that moves their bodies instead of their legs.

Who Plays?

The game has truly gone international, though for many years it was mainly dominated by Canadian, American, Swedish and Norwegian players. However, in recent years Korean para-athletes have begun to become very respected in the game and Korea has done well in international tournaments since 2011. In the 2014 Winter Games, Korea defeated the Russian hosts at Sochi in a remarkable and stunning performance. However, plagued by injuries the rest of the Games, the team wound up finishing in 7th place. The team’s leader stated, “We tried our best to win the medals in order to be recognized and get the support we need. We did well considering our conditions, but I cannot hide my disappointment” (Steel Wire, 2017). The Korean documentary Parallel describes the training of the Korean sledge hockey...

Sledge hockey is no easy game and requires a great deal of physicality, toughness (both mental and physical), and upper body strength. Endurance is one of the most key aspects of the game and it is one that players must acquire in order to be successful—just like in any other sport, such as football or soccer.

Showing that needed endurance has been Team USA, which won the Salt Lake City 2002 Paralympic Winter Games—a first for the American sledge hockey team. Team USA took a bronze medal in 2006 and then again took the gold in 2010. The U.S. also took the gold athet 2012 International Paralympic Committee Sledge Hockey World Championship in Norway—the first team in the world to ever win back-to-back gold medals in world competition.

One of the most respected sledge hockey players is Steve Cash. He is a goaltender and in 2009 he enabled the U.S. to power its way to its very first international title. That year he started every game and played superbly all the way through, such that the U.S. Olympic Committee saw fit to recognize him as the 2009 Paralympic SportsMan of the Year (Blanchard, 2014). The following year at the 2010 Paralympic Games, Cash managed to not allow a single goal in five games: he blocked every one of the 33 shots that came his way. He took home the “Best Male Athlete with a Disability” ESPY Award that year, and went on to boast a .923 save percentage by 2012 (Blanchard, 2014). Cash has become a legend in sledge hockey for American players.

Canada has its own legends as well. Canadian captain Greg Westlake has had his praises sung by Norwegian defenceman Morten Vaernes, and so to have Billy Bridges (forward) and Brad Bowden (forward). Bowden has been described as “the player with the best understanding of the game, and he has great overall skills. He is always amongst top leaders in goals and assists, great puck and sledge control,” and according to Vaernes (2014), “the best sledge hockey player of all-time.” To have an opponent like Vaernes identify you as the all-time greatest is surely an honor that any sledge hockey player would gladly welcome.

Bowden’s story is worth describing. He was born in 1983 with sacral agenesis, which is a condition that has a lot in common with spina bifida: “He started playing wheelchair basketball in the 1990’s, winning several national Championships, including a Canada Winter Games Championship in 1999. Bowden’s biggest accomplishment in the sport was at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, where Canada were crowned champions. Since retiring from wheelchair basketball in 2008, Bowden turned his full attention to one of his favourite sports growing up – hockey” (Para Ice Hockey, 2017).

Greg Westlake is another: He had his legs amputated when he was just a year-and-a-half old. As the captain of the Canadian sledge team, he has come a long way since then. He began playing sledge hockey in 2001. At the still young age of 17 he was named to the national team in 2003.

Star USA goaltender Steve Cash also is an amputee. Born in 1989, he was diagnosed at just three years of age with bone cancer and as a result had to undergo amputation surgery. Cash did not let that hold him back, however. He found a sport that he could throw himself into it with vigor and at the age of 15 he served as a backup goaltender in the 2006 Games, where his team took home the bronze. The following year, Cash was the team’s go-to goalie and is now considered one of the best in the world.


Coaching sledge hockey players is all about getting the players, kids and adults alike, to realize that they can do more on the ice than they might initially think possible. Joan Joyce, Director of Therapeutic Recreation…

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