For an hour every Saturday, it’s chaos on the ice at the Juan de Fuca Arena in Colwood.
Players are strapped onto double-bladed sledges with a plastic seat and, using two sticks with ice picks on the end, begin propelling themselves around the ice, passing and shooting to teammates, trying to score a goal against the opposing team in a sport called sledge hockey.
“It’s an hour of chaos and that’s what I like. It’s organized chaos,” said Darcy Poitras, co-ordinator and head coach of the Victoria Wheelchair Sports Club.
Sledge hockey was invented in the early ’60s in Stockholm, Sweden at a rehabilitation centre and was designed to allow able bodied and disabled people to play ice hockey.
It is played on hockey-sized ice and many skills learned in hockey are transferable.
Poitras was thrown into the sport roughly a year ago when he was participating in an adaptive fitness class at the University of Victoria. With a background of hockey, Poitras thought it would be fun to volunteer and try something new. And after a quick crash course from a sledge hockey co-ordinator, Poitras was ready to hit the ice and play a “unique” sport unlike anything he’s ever tried.
Now Poitras, in partnership with the Victoria Wheelchair Sports Club, West Shore Parks and Recreation, B.C. Hockey and SportAbility are encouraging Greater Victoria residents to come out and try sledge hockey during drop-in sessions on Saturdays.
“We really try to preach a full inclusion model, meaning anyone can play,” he said, adding there are roughly eight to 12 players who come out on a regular basis, about half of whom are disabled.
“The other thing I really like is that when you come into the sport it’s a completely even playing field. So the able bodied athletes despite, not having that impairment when they get into the sled, often times they’re having just as difficult or more difficult of a time as somebody in a wheelchair.”
Craig McKinnon has been playing sledge hockey with the group since November.
Since suffering a brain tumour and stroke in 2005, the Victoria resident had been looking for a place that offered the sport for some time, and now, he’s hooked.
“There’s a mix of able and disabled players and everyone is out there having fun. It’s exercise and I feel, for me, because of my disability, I used to be pretty active, I don’t get that sense often of moving and being active. This provides that opportunity, I feel like I’m playing hockey again,” he said.
In the future Poitras hopes to have enough players to move from a drop-in to a club format where players can compete.
Drop-in sledge hockey takes place every Saturday until March 24 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Juan de Fuca Arena (1767 Island Hwy.) The fee is $5 and all equipment is provided. For more information visit bchockey.net and under programs, search sledge hockey.