Sled hockey was invented in the early 1960s at the Stockholm rehabilitation center. A group of Swedes wanted to continue to play hockey despite their mobility needs. The game follows the ice hockey rules with a few exceptions. The players sit on specially designed sleds that have two hockey blades under them. Furthermore, each player uses two specially designed sticks with metal picks on the ends. This helps the person propel themselves across the ice. Finally, the goalie uses specially designed gloves with metal picks sewn to the back of each glove. This helps the goalie to maneuver during the game.
Sled hockey has provided a recreational sport for people with many different levels of ability. Many states are starting to offer sled hockey. But, unfortunately, there are not many rinks around that are sled-accessible. However, sled hockey is starting to grow rapidly in the US and once a person touches the ice for the first time they're hooked.
Josh Sweeney, a Marine Corps scout sniper, was injured in Afghanistan in October 2009 when he stepped on an IED. Since his accident, Sweeney has played sled hockey. In 2014 Sweeney joined the Paralympics sledge hockey team who won the gold medal at the games held in Russia. Sweeney scored the only goal in the playoffs against Russia.
Last year Sweeney and his family moved to Portland, Oregon to be closer to his wife’s family. Right away, Sweeney started working on enlisting people to help him establish a sled hockey team in Portland. So far Sweeney has the support and help from Labatt Blue, the Portland Winterhawks, USA Hockey and the National Hockey League Players Association.
The Hawks have been a supporting factor in helping Sweeney get started. Furthermore, the Hawks have already added a new sled hockey section to the WAHA. Sweeney is grateful for all their help because he knows nothing about the red tape and what it takes to get all this done.
Sweeney contacted the NHLPA and its Goals & Dreams program to tell them about his plan to start a sled hockey team in Portland. Immediately the organization supplied Sweeney with all the equipment he needed to put 15 players on the ice.
It’s been a long road for Sweeney, but one he has been dedicated to from the beginning. On August 23rd Sweeney is planning to hold a free “come try sled hockey” event at the Winterhawk’s Skating Center. Sweeney is so sure that once the person hits the ice for the first time they’ll be hooked and ready to join. Furthermore, Sweeney understands it will be a slow process finding dedicated players who are willing to come consistently.
If anyone’s interested in joining the sled hockey free event in August, check out this video to see what a great sport sled hockey is.