The playing field, as a matter of speaking, was evened on Nov. 18 when the female 100 Mile House Donex Thrashers Bantam Reps met with the boys Williams Lake Tier 2 Bantam Rep Timberwolves for some friendly sledge hockey in 100 Mile House.
Sledge hockey was designed to give physically disabled people an opportunity to play ice hockey. It incorporates skate blades on a metal frame on which the players sits and propels themselves with two short hockey sticks.
While both teams were able-bodied, playing on sledges gave them a chance to realize disabilities don’t have to get in the way of playing hockey if that’s your passion.
This was the first time any of the players had played sledge hockey and taking them through the paces was Quesnel resident James Gemmell, a member of the Canadian men’s sledge hockey team.
He joined the group at the request of Sue White, BC Female Director of Hockey, who lives in Williams Lake. White rounded up the sledges owned by BC Hockey, thinking they would be a great tool for promoting female hockey. The plan is to get the two teams a little more proficient on the sledges, so they can play in a benefit game in February, with proceeds from the door to go to spinal-cord research.
Their hope is to have the Man in Motion Rick Hansen, Canadian Paralympian and activist for people with spinal-cord injuries, in attendance. Hansen also grew up in Williams Lake.
There were plenty of spills at the practice, but teamwork and problem solving got players back up on their blades. Thrashers safety trainer Cindy Grant says she thought the young players caught on quickly.
“They were surprised at first at how difficult it was. By the end of the hour, they were doing quite well. They really liked it.”
She adds parents in the stands got quite a charge out of watching the calamity on the ice and showed an interest in trying it themselves.
Before hitting the ice, Gemmell spent time with the hockey players to explain rules of the game and talk about setting goals. He also made time to sign autographs.
Timberwolves coach Steve Carpenter said it was a good experience for his team.
“The kids thought it was the best thing, ever. They kept asking for more time on the ice,” he said.