Started in Sweden in the early ’60s—about 20 years after IKEA—sledge hockey was created for people who want to play hockey despite disabilities. The sport’s growing in Nova Scotia, with four current programs, two more on the way and Bridgewater recently hosting the World Sledge Hockey Challenge. While at the international level eligible athletes must have a permanent impairment in the lower part of the body that makes ordinary skating impossible, those who are able bodied can still play at the recreational level. “Once anybody puts their body in a sledge,” says Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Darren Cossar, “everybody’s on the same playing field.”
Sledge blades are slightly shorter than standard hockey skates. Beginners start with blades wide apart to give better balance. At the national and Paralympic level, blades are virtually touching for greater agility.
The seat, made of plastic, rests on the frame above the blades. Features seatbelts to keep athlete in the bucket. Players at the national level get the body modified to their liking.
Made of a combination of aluminium or steel and plastic. Comes in small, medium and large sizes, all three of which are adjustable, to allow for a custom length depending on disability.
Back of frame
A bracket at the back of the frame allows for the instillation of a push handle. This is helpful for beginners, but also advanced players with more limiting disabilities such as severe cerebral palsy. Sometimes an athlete can’t push the sledge, but can still shoot the puck. “It’s a pretty inclusive sport,” says Cossar. “The individuals involved with it make it work.”
A metal or plastic balancing tool at the front. Players stickhandle by passing the puck back and forth underneath the sledge, so it has to be raised off the ice.
Each sledge comes with a left and right stick equipped with a blade on one end and a metal pick on the other. The picks dig into the ice and allow the player to push off as they propel around the ice. Most players are ambidextrous, stick-handling and shooting the puck with either stick. “Sticks are used like a canoe. You lose a stick, you’re in trouble on the ice,” says Cossar.
By the numbers
Number of athletes registered in Hockey Nova Scotia sledge programs
Number of sledges Hockey NS owns and lends to programs around the province, including around 20 to the BMO Centre in Bedford. Most athletes borrow sledges for the year
The cost of a standard sledge and sticks (before tax)
Sledge hockey makes its debut at the Lillehammer Paralympic Winter Games
Target year for a Nova Scotia sledge hockey team