Sledge Hockey – Ajax, ON to Vancouver, BC

Happy St. Patrick’s day. Put on something green.

I always try to be a bit of an outsider. For the three years I lived in British Columbia I remained a bitterly proud Ontario citizen, but since I’ve been back in Ontario, I mention how much I love BC every chance I get.

It goes without saying that it was painful to watch the Olympics light up what had been my home for three years, to have my friends out west constantly remind me of how incredible the city was during the festivities.

“Downtown is, I don’t even know what to say. There are people everywhere, it’s insane, you have to be here!”
“I am trying, I am trying!” I cried.

But, responsibilities laid claim to my soul, and I was grounded here in Ontario.

Now the time has come again to watch as the sporting world centres on our west coast. The Paralympic Games are lighting up the city of Vancouver, and so we’ve all had to bust out those red mittens and dig our Nikki Yanofsky CD’s out of the embers.

My father, who I gave a glowing review to in my last post, has been involved with many Paralympics and many Paralympians for as long as I can remember. Recently, he carried the Paralympic torch through Toronto with the help of a small friend.

One of the Paralympians my dad’s worked with is Jeremy Booker, who’s currently in Vancouver playing for Team Canada’s Sledge hockey team. Recently, Jeremy let me come and join him for a practice to give Sledge Hockey a try.

The first thing I noticed was that Jeremy had the ice to himself. As a track athlete, I always found it hard to push myself when doing solo-workouts; I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to try and prep for a team sport with solo practices, but Jeremy gets the ice once or twice a day during school hours and goes out and does what he can. With his team being a collection of guys from all over Canada, it’s difficult to find guys in the sport on his level. When you then consider how physical the sport gets, having to practice on his own becomes that much bigger of a hurdle to overcome in his preparation for the games.

When I got into the sled, my speed was pretty mild, but I did get a handle on how to control myself. I equated the steering of the sledge to steering a kayak- you’re positioned in a similar way, and use your hips to make all of your aggressive manoeuvres, while pushing with your right and left sides steers you like a paddle.

After giving the sledge a try for awhile, I eventually just put my skates on so that I could provide Jeremy with a partner to do some passing, but I had to shy away from any contact drills (I forgot my shoulder pads!). The contact element of sledge hockey is what really catches viewers’ attention the first time they watch. Not only are guys running into each other with a metal frame around their hips, but they also have two sticks, each of which has a jagged ice-pick on the end. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Ulf Samuelsson never found out about this sport. However, if you’re interested in finding out some more about it, the best way is to tune in for Canada’s semi-final game tomorrow (Thursday, March 18) against Japan, at 3pm EST. Canada’s rolling right now, having handled all three of their opponents thus far, but they’re nearing the top of the pyramid now and the competition is about to get fierce. Should Canada emerge victorious tomorrow, they’ll play to complete Canada’s golden trifecta on Sunday against either the US or Norway. So grab some popcorn, throw on your “Eh, oh, Canada, go” shirt and cheer on the boys!