With a rough and tumble sport like ice hockey, it’s safe to say it is not for the faint of heart– and you might think it’s only for those who can stand and skate on two legs. But thanks to a growing sport called sled hockey, that is no longer the case. According to USA Hockey volunteer Norm Page, of Lancaster, NY, whose 19 year-old son Adam plays on the world champion US Paralympic Sled Hockey team, the sport is getting wildly popular in the United States, having been invented in Sweden in the 1960s. Page describes the team’s Gold Medal victory over Korea in the 2012 World Championship Paralympics as the perfect ending to a dream season. Held on April 1 in Hamar, Norway, the USA team beat Korea 5 – 1.
“Sled hockey has just about all the rules of traditional NHL hockey,” said Norm, “but the upper body strength needed is tremendous—the players propel themselves on small sleds using only two sticks.” He said the sticks have metal teeth to aid in propulsion and they cannot be pointed at another player. The only other rule unique to sled hockey prohibits charging or ramming an opponent using any part of the front radius of the sled.
In order to enhance the pace and keep the momentum of the game going, Norm has been instrumental in designing several sled hockey rinks. He uses Vycom’s Hitec® material (https://www.vycomplastics.com), an impact- and moisture-resistant material for the flooring of the locker room, bench area and entryway to the ice. “If you make all of the flooring smooth and flush with the ice, the athletes can be outfitted into their sleds in the locker room and just go for the rest of the game,” he said. “Otherwise, the officials have to physically lift them from one area to another.”
Rich Ineson of Curbell Plastics, Orchard Park, NY supplied the Hitec® material in natural color to Page for the North Town Center in Amherst, NY, and a sports arena in Buffalo with four rink areas.
“This material really stands up to punishment and conversely, prevents damage to the sleds,” said Ineson. Ineson is a traditional ice hockey coach and has invited Adam Page, who was born with spina bifida and started playing at age six, to practice with his team. “Sled hockey players are true athletes,” said Ineson. “It gets rough out there.”
Norm Page also mentioned the importance of having a competitive sport like sled hockey for disabled veterans. “USA Hockey is starting up new programs for veterans and military personnel,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be able to modify more rinks and find ways to make the sport even more accessible to a greater number of disabled Americans.” For more details or to volunteer, please contact 716-984-2585. To learn more about Hitec® from Vycom, visit www.vycomplastics.com.