Sledge hockey (known as sled hockey in the United States) is a sport that was designed to allow participants who have a physical disability to play the game of ice hockey. Ice sledge hockey was invented in the early 1960s in Stockholm, Sweden, at a rehabilitation center. It is currently one of the most popular sports in the Paralympic Games. Sledge hockey is fast-paced, highly physical and played by male and female athletes with a physical impairment in the lower part of the body. The sport is governed by the IPC with co-ordination by the IPC Ice Hockey Technical Committee.
Sledge hockey is the Paralympic equivalent of Ice Hockey, as its name suggests, it is played using two blade sledges which allow the puck to pass underneath the sledge. They are propelled by sticks with a spike in the one end and a blade in the other end for shooting.
The sport is played by athletes with a physical disability in the lower half of their body. There is no classification system as such but the minimum disability ruling applies i.e. that the athlete has a permanent disability that prevents him from skating on his feet. There is no current competition for women.
Sledge hockey is a sport that was introduced during the 1994 Lillehammer Games in Norway.
The game is very similar to ice hockey in that each team has a goalie, two defense-men and three forwards. Players maneuver themselves around the ice by the use of two sticks. These are three feet long and have spikes on the end allowing the player to dig in and propel himself along the surface.
The player sits on a sledge with runners to allow the puck to pass underneath. The players must be disabled. Here we will take a look at each facet of this most interesting game.
Sledge hockey had its beginnings in Sweden where a group of friends who had various disabilities began look for a way to play hockey even though they were disabled. At first they played without a goalie. After a few years the game was gaining in popularity and by 1980 the game had caught on so that international tournaments were started. By 1982 the game was popular in Sweden, Norway, Canada, USA and Great Britain. By 1993 Japan and Estonia had teams.
Sweden used their early knowledge to win the first Paralympic Winter Games in Norway and the game has been very popular ever since.
Paralympic Ice Sledge Hockey Infographic Explanation - Image Courtesy of Allianz.com
The sticks are approximately one third the length of a regular hockey stick. They can be made of one or two pieces of wood and they are strengthened with layers of fiberglass. The picks on the end must not be sharp and must not protrude from the end more than 1 cm. The picks do not damage the ice.
The goalie stick has a pick on the heel end as well as the toe. The sticks are so designed as to allow the player to shoot the puck as well as use it for propulsion.
The Sledge is made of aluminum for light-weight, but others are made of steel. The special blades are made of tempered spring steel 3mm thick. The height of the frame is high enough to allow the puck to slide underneath. The player sits in the bucket which is set up for his body configuration depending upon his particular disability. Special braces are fitted to the sledge to allow the players feet, ankles, knees and hips to be held in place without slipping or loosening.
Generally where possible, the arenas where the games are played have the players benches constructed with a very low entry with Plexiglas instead of wood where the boards are. This allows for easier entry to the bench and the sledge hockey players can see the action from where they sit.
If the arena is not set up this way the players will stay on the ice between the red and blue lines while not playing.
Sledge hockey is a hard hitting sport. The puck is moving very fast and the players are battling it out with sticks.
Because of this, the players must wear protective helmets with full face screens. They also wear special padded gloves, shoulder pads with neck protection, shin pads and elbow pads. All of these offer a good layer of protection. The goalie will also wear a special catcher mitt to handle the puck that may hit speeds of up to 80 or 90 km. The puck is made of solid, vulcanized rubber and is 3 inches in diameter.
Ice Sledge Hockey is practiced in 10 countries with club teams now established in Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Russia and Korea.
Based on Ice Sledge Hockey, Inline Sledge Hockey is played to the same rules as inline hockey (essentially ice hockey played off ice using inline skates) and is played in a sports hall and not on ice. Inline Sledge Hockey was originally the brainchild of British Paralympian Matthew Lloyd. Inline Sledge Hockey is being developed to allow everyone, regardless of whether they have a disability or not, to compete up to the World Championship level based solely on talent and ability. This makes Inline Sledge Hockey truly inclusive.
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