By JAMES TUBB on January 13, 2022.
It’s been two long years, but sledge hockey will be played in front of the Medicine Hat public once again.
Tara Chisholm, program coordinator for Medicine Hat Adaptive Sport and Recreation, says they are excited to showcase their skills for the first time in a long time.
“We are so excited to be able to play sledge hockey again in Medicine Hat for the first time in two years,” Chisholm said. “It’s been a long time coming and we couldn’t be more excited to showcase our sport again to our friends, family and the public.”
MHASR is hosting the Medicine Hat Sledge Hockey Jamboree, a three-day tournament at the Big Marble Go Centre this weekend featuring teams from Medicine Hat and Calgary.
Medicine Hat has two junior teams entered, which include athletes from six to 20 years old. The Calgary Sledge Hockey Club is sending down one junior team to compete. On the adult side of the tournament there will be two intermediate teams from Medicine Hat along with one intermediate team from Calgary. Each team will be play four games throughout the weekend.
MHASR is a non-profit organization that started in 2014 underneath the Paralympic Sports Association, a provincial organization
Chisholm says they were not sure what their numbers would be like this season due to the current restrictions but they’ve had their largest numbers ever in the program, resulting in the split teams for the tournament.
She says the amount of people that have signed up shows how ready people are to get back to activity and interacting in a physical space.
“It was really important for a lot of our members and to be able to have that is really exciting,” Chisholm said. “And to invite brand new people in who we never met before the pandemic, and now we have new athletes in for the first time. So that’s really exciting too.”
MHASR was only able to practice 1-on-1 last season under the restrictions and haven’t had the opportunity to play games in front of fans since 2020. For this weekend’s tournament there is no fee for anyone interested in watching, and the tournament schedule can be found at mhasr.com.
For those interested in giving sledge hockey a try, MHASR will be hosting a community try-it event on Saturday from 12:15-1:30 p.m. at the Go Centre. Anyone interested must bring their own helmets and gloves to wear and sleds and sticks will be provided.
Chisholm says they try to do a couple try-out events every season, as fans are always interested in the difference between stand-up hockey and sledge.
“We find that when the public comes out and watches, or family and friends come out to watch they always say after the game, ‘I want to try that. I want to see how hard it is or what it’s like,'” Chisholm said. “So we’ve put it right in the middle of our tournament so people who are watching, who are interested, can come out and view the games but also get in a sled and see how they do on the ice in comparison to the athletes they just watched and see if it’s something they really enjoy.”
Chisholm, who is the MHASR coordinator, is also the current head coach of the Canadian Women’s Para Ice Hockey team. She says the biggest difference between stand-up hockey and sledge hockey for her was there is no backwards skating in sledge and a player has to be good with both hands, not just one side.
“Usually you’re either right handed or left handed, you pick your side and stick to it and get really good. Whereas in para-sports you want to be ambidextrous so it is a bit of a challenge,” Chisholm said. “You use your brain in a way that you probably have never used it before in other sports.”
She could not pick which of the 12 games this weekend she was most looking forward to, but says she’s excited to see the Medicine Hat teams play a different opponent for a change.
“I think the Calgary game will also be really exciting because our Medicine Hat players are used to playing each other, because that’s kind of who we have,” Chisholm said. “We don’t have a league or regular tournaments, so I think it will be a little bit different because we have referees out, it’s official, we’re not just at practice Sunday nights.”
She is also playing in the tournament herself on the second Medicine Hat intermediate team, so she says she may be biased on her favourite games but she’s just excited to see everyone showcasing the skills they’ve learned over the two years.
“But I think all of the games will be really exciting to watch, just super exciting for our players to be able to showcase all these skills they’ve been working really hard on the last two years to their friends and family for the first time in a long time,” Chisholm said.
There will be 12 games spread across the three days with the tournament getting underway Friday night at 6:45 p.m., when the Medicine Hat Junior Team 1 takes their Hat rivals, Team 2.