WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Proving that with determination, it’s possible to overcome a disability.
Ice hockey is an intense game, an adrenaline-filled sport that requires laser-sharp focus. Although people with a physical disability cannot skate, they found another way to shred the ice – on a sled!
Corey Drouin of Agawam said, “You use both of your arms to shoot and score and to push yourself, so you definitely have to be well coordinated.”
Fourteen teams from all over the country and Canada participated in what’s known as the largest and oldest sled hockey tournament in the United States. The 17th Annual New England Sled Hockey Tournament is a weekend-long competition held at the Amelia Park Ice Arena in Westfield.
Players who have lost the ability to use their legs strapped themselves to a sled, and went head-to-head on the ice.
Event coordinator Carole Appleton from Amelia Park Ice Arena told 22News, they’re no different than any other athlete. “For the time that they’re on the ice, they’re not really disabled people. They’re just athletes that want to kick a little butt.”
The tournament shows that people with a disability can overcome their physical challenges to compete in such a high-intensity game.
“We can’t T-Bone and we can’t pick anybody with the bottom of our stick that we use to propel. Other than that, we play by the same rules, but we sit down on a sled.”
Don’t underestimate the players. Sled hockey can be just as fast-paced as normal hockey, complete with a little bit of aggression.
Ryan Kincade of Northampton said, “There’s some NHL style play that goes on in some of these teams. There’s real hitting, fights do break out. It’s real intense.”
But when the game is over, it’s all about the brotherhood of the players.
Tournament organizer Dale Wise said, “They play their hearts out, yet when they get off the ice they’re all laughing and joking. The camaraderie that they have; the respect they have for each other. It’s just wonderful.”