Sled (“Sledge”) Ice Hockey After 13 Years In a Wheelchair…

Prior to becoming paralyzed in 1999 I was a solid hockey player. It came natural to me, and within my local hockey league I was one of the best. After being injured in 1999 I stayed away from hockey entirely. I just didn’t like the way I felt when watching my friends play. I kept my old hockey stick and a couple old pucks. I’d shoot around in my garage every once in a while. But again, it just didn’t feel the same. Years have passed. Every day I go in my shed to grab something I see my hockey sticks. I roll by in my wheelchair always pretending not to notice them. I know hockey sticks can’t talk, but I swear they always seem to silently taunt me. Since I can remember hockey had been my passion. Today, 13 years later my passion is on a shelf in the closet..

About 3-4 weeks ago I attempted to play sled (“sledge”) hockey for the first time since being paralyzed 13 years earlier in 1999. You might be wondering why it took  13 years to try disabled sled hockey. Well, the truth is, I stayed away for the same reason I disregard my old hockey sticks in the shed.  So, with hesitation, after 13 years, I attempted ice sled (“sledge”) hockey for the very first time at a rink in Coral Springs, FL.  A local team had put on an open clinic and a friend convinced me to attend.

The rules to sled hockey are basically the same as the rules to regular hockey.  Except in disabled hockey the player sits in a sled, called a “sledge”.  Another big difference is that the player uses 2 short hockey sticks instead of just 1.  The curved blade of each hockey stick is similar to the blade of a normal hockey stick.  The opposite end of each sledge hockey stick has 6-8 metal teeth for maneuvering and propulsion.  The player moves by gripping the ice with the metal teeth.

The hardest part for me was the transition from pushing to puck handling.  While pushing, the player grips the hockey blade while pushing down through the metal teeth on the opposite side.  Then, the player must quickly slide the hockey stick to a normal grip when the puck is passed to him/her.  Throughout the entire day, I received about 50 passes. Of those passes I probably received 5 of them successfully.  To put it lightly, sledge hockey was extremely difficult for me.  The feeling wasn’t remotely close to the way I felt so many years ago.  I have mixed emotions about playing.  It was absolutely sweet to put on a pair of hockey gloves and grip a hockey stick.  So although I’m glad I experienced sledge ice hockey, I’ll most likely never play again. Ultimately, the experience was bittersweet, more bitter than sweet…  I’d rather lament the memories of what once was, than convince myself that I could ever love the only available hockey replacement.

With that being said, I’m still a strong supporter of anyone and everyone trying new sports. If you’re interested in possibly playing sledge hockey, I suggest you get out there any play.  Chances are good you’ll enjoy it.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Scott

    Nice to see you at least gave hockey another go after all these years.

  • Jeff Ehmann

    wow, who is that on the mono ski? I think I just got my desire back!

    • Jacob

      Hi Jeff, That’s me in the video. The snow was exceptionally fast that trip!

  • janette

    No matter what I still love the ski video the best. I just love it! But, if you can ski like that,seems to me you could play hockey too. Maybe it just takes practice. You are awesome!

  • Jeff Ehmann

    I completely agree with your comments, observations and feelings about sledge hockey.

    I also played hockey in my youth, and nothing compares to the true experience of skating down the ice, stopping on a dime or directing a wrister at the five hole.

    It’s for the same reason that I have not tried mono-skiing. It’s the memories of what it was really like being free out there on two ski’s and flying down a double diamond. That was my escape later in life from my job and being a family man (even though I also had my Son with me).

    So it’s not so much the physical in returning to sports that we lived for in the past, it’s the mental aspect and dealing with those memories.

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