By Sean Rooney on May 16, 2018.
A total of 11 hours on a plane followed by three hours on a bus led the Canadian Women’s National Sledge Hockey Team to Ostrava, Czech Republic for the Women’s International Para Ice Hockey World Cup.
Para Ice Hockey — formerly known as sledge hockey — is a Paralympic sport developed for athletes with lower body disabilities. The athletes use a piece of equipment called a sled with two blades on the bottom accompanied by two miniature hockey sticks with ice picks on the ends to propel themselves around the ice. The rules are the same as traditional ice hockey with minor differences to accommodate for the unique equipment.
The women’s World Cup was the first competition of its nature for women’s para ice hockey that provided a two-tiered system for women. In the elite division the more developed nations of Canada, the United States and a combined European team competed. In the development division the world saw the countries of Australia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden compete for the very first time. The development division had teams competing 3-on-3 against one another across ice to allow for these new nations to compete on their own with smaller teams. In addition to 3-on-3 games, the development division also had skill development sessions led by coaches and players from the elite division.
Canada and the United States were neck-and-neck competing for the top spot. The USA took the first game with a score of 4-3, followed by Canada netting a win of 1-0 in the second matchup of the two nations. When it came down to the final gold medal game the United States held on to a 1-0 lead that secured them as the champions for the 2018 Women’s World Cup — Elite Division. In the development division, a combined team of Finland/Sweden pulled off an upset over the favourite Team Norway to be crowned the 2018 Women’s World Cup — Development Division winners.
However, one of the largest wins of the week was an announcement that came the night before Canada faced the USA in the gold medal game. Currently, women’s para ice hockey is not a recognized Paralympic sport. This means that the women do not have a chance to compete at the Paralympic Games and therefore do not receive funding support from their countries. Although still not a Paralympic sport, USA Hockey decided to take a leap forward and bring the USA Women’s National Sledge Hockey Team underneath their umbrella and declare them an official team of USA Hockey.
USA Hockey is one of the leaders in para ice hockey and for them to take this step forward and acknowledge these female athletes is a promising sign for the women’s movement in general. Here is hoping that the rest of the world will take notice.
Tara Chisholm is the head coach of the Canadian National Women’s Sledge Hockey Team and is a member of the Females in Action Moving and Empowering committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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