Sledge hockey has come to Lacombe, breaking down barriers and providing an accessible recreational option for central Alberta.
Debuting during Saturday’s Lacombe Generals game on Jan. 8th, 2022, the Team Jigger Sledge Hockey program is the culmination of a recreation and culture grant from the City of Lacombe as well as mentorship, loaned equipment, guidance and support from Hockey Alberta, the Paralympic Sports Association, the Lacombe Arena, and other area programs and groups.
“Sledge, or ‘Para’ Hockey, is a truly accessible version of the game we all know and love,” said Ray Wasdal, Team Jigger Board Director and Sledge Hockey Program coordinator. “People who are experiencing paraplegia, mobility issues, degenerative conditions, amputation or coordination issues can strap into a sled alongside able-bodied friends and family for a game of hockey. It’s very inspiring.”
Given the Team Jigger Foundation’s mandate of advocating for accessibility and providing opportunity for everyBODY to enjoy their best possible lifestyle, a sledge hockey program is a great fit.
Sledge hockey equipment is similar to regular hockey equipment – players wear helmets with cages, gloves, neck protectors, and elbow pads. Instead of lacing up skates, players are seated and strapped into an adjustable sled (or sledge) with a bumper at the front and blades directly under the seat. Players use two short sticks in tandem – one end is bladed for the left or right and is used to handle the puck, pass and shoot. On the butt end of the sticks are ice picks, used to propel the player around the ice.
“The program started up in the winter of 2021, with 10-15 participants per session,” said Wasdal. “Having a couple experienced players from the former Red Deer program join us here in Lacombe has been extremely beneficial. We were able to work on the basics of balance and skill so that we had something to show the attendees of the Lacombe Generals game.”
The Team Jigger Sledge Hockey program was invited to take to the ice between the first and second periods of the Lacombe Generals Game vs Morinville on Saturday night for a 10-minute exhibition introducing the program to attendees.
“We were able to showcase a scrimmage in front of a crowd, and I suspect for many people it was their first time seeing sledge hockey in person,” said Darcy Stingel, another Team Jigger Board Director involved with the program. “The love of hockey and recreation transcends wheelchairs, or crutches, or physicality. This program brings an accessible option to Lacombe and area, and the Team Jigger Foundation hopes to find other avenues for accessible recreation options in the future.”
“We’d like to thank everyone who has supported or participated in this initiative so far. We have a few more months in the program still, so we invite you or someone you know who may benefit from the program to reach out and rediscover their love of the game.” said Stingel.
With proof of concept and growing participation, the Team Jigger Sledge Hockey program hopes to reach as many Central Albertans as possible, and looks forward to community involvement that allows for consideration to be given to accessibility in sports.
“We are the only sledge hockey program currently operating in Central Alberta and although we were able to keep costs relatively low during this start-up year, we will be seeking sponsorship from our community to keep these sleds on the ice and the love of hockey alive and well for everyBODY,” said Wasdal.
The Team Jigger Foundation has developed a sponsorship package for corporations, individuals or families to contribute.
“Every amount helps to ensure accessibility, from the purchase and maintenance of equipment, off-setting of insurance, registration and ice times to keep the program as affordable as possible for participants,” said Wasdal.
Details on the Team Jigger Sledge Hockey program can be found at teamjigger.com/sledgehockey For sponsorship opportunities or by calling (825) 640-8326.