Ryan was introduced to the sport in 2013, when the Children’s Treatment Network (CTN) hosted a 4-week ‘Try it Out’ Sledge Hockey event in Stayner. At this event, the majority of participants were CTN clients along with their friends and siblings. The ‘Try it Out’ event allowed parents to recognize the possibilities that the sport could offer their kids. Following the 4 week program a keen group of dedicated parents formed a junior sledge hockey team called the Simcoe County Sliders. All of the players were young and inexperienced, but the team persevered and went on to achieve success. They started to win games and eventually made it to compete in the semi-finals of their division in both 2016 and 2017. Ryan gained considerable skills as a forward playing centre, scoring his first goal in January 2016. He was called up to play at the Ontario Parasport winter games in 2017 where the team won silver.
Last year the Sliders amalgamated with the Elmvale Bears where Ryan now plays on an intermediate team as a forward. His team is currently second in the league and is favoured to win first place.
Ryan recalls that the opportunity to play sledge hockey all started with the CTN event. Since then, he has gained skills as a hockey player and has achieved many personal successes in the sport. But what Ryan has loved the most about playing sledge hockey are the friendships he’s formed and the opportunities for travel. He loves staying in hotels and ‘hanging out’ with his teammates.
Sledge hockey, also known as para ice hockey (Paralympic sport version of ice hockey), originated in Sweden. This accessible sport was developed so individuals with physical disabilities could play hockey. Participants sit on a sled and propel themselves with two hockey sticks that have picks on the ends, which are used to dig into the ice. The game essentially follows the same rules as stand up hockey - it’s fast paced and exciting to play and watch. With Canada’s team winning medals in both the 2014 and 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, this sport is quickly becoming a new favourite!
As the sport of sledge hockey grows in popularity, individuals have recognized that sledges can also be used as an alternative for events like public skating. Many municipalities now welcome sledge use by those who can’t use regular skates or simply choose not to use skates. Some municipalities are purchasing sledges so that they are available for the general public to use. CTN has recently obtained 20 sleds of various sizes that can be borrowed for public skating events.
New Loanable Equipment: Borrow a Sledge This Winter: CTN now has 20 sledges of various sizes for families to borrow this winter. Some of the sledges have extra trunk support and a push bar. All of the sledges can be used for public skating or to try playing sledge hockey. The sledges will be stored at the Resource Centres in Barrie and Richmond Hill. Borrowers will be responsible to pick up and return the sledge to one of these locations. Sledges will be available for pick up on a Thursday and should be returned 10 days later on a Tuesday. This will give families 2 weekends to try it out. If your child needs a sledge with trunk support, please contact your therapist to arrange a joint visit when you pick up the sledge for the first time. Your therapist will determine if the sledge has adequate trunk support and if a push bar is needed. If your child does not need added trunk support on a sledge and/or your child does not have a therapist, please contact Jacqui Wesselingh at firstname.lastname@example.org if you live in Simcoe or Christian Marquez at email@example.com if you live in York.
Along with our community partners, CTN is co-hosting several ‘Try a Sledge’ events in the coming months to give children and youth with special needs the opportunity to try the sport. Check the CTN calendar to find out about these events or other recreational sledge hockey programs that may be offered in your community.
Also, check out a game of para ice hockey in person! There are two competitive teams for youth in this area including the Elmvale Bears and the Markham Islanders . You may be lucky enough to see Ryan and his teammates in action!
Ryan continues to work on his game and has again been called up to play at the upcoming Ontario Parasport Winter games in February. In the long run, he has his sights set on Team Canada. With his drive, skill and determination, it’s a realistic goal. Go Ryan!!
Written by: Jennifer Phillips, Community Participation Facilitator with CTN
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