NANAIMO — There isn't a sledge hockey program in Nanaimo... at least not yet.
A demo is coming to Cliff McNabb Arena on Saturday put on by the Nanaimo Child Development Centre, Victoria Wheelchair Sports, and the VIU Mariners hockey team.
Anyone interested can try out a sledge during a two hour session from about 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
After that the VIU Mariners will play a scrimmage game for about an hour.
Mariners team president Myles Parsons hopes this will be the start of more awareness around sledge hockey.
"We don't where this is going to go but if it doesn't start, it won't go anywhere," said Parsons.
Sledge hockey, or para ice hockey, is played with an adjustable sledge that measures between .6 metres and 1.2 metres, there are two blades on the bottom and straps to fasten the player in.
Two short hockey sticks are used with a blade on one end and a pick at the other that is used for helping players stop and start and gather up their speed.
Parsons says the VIU players are looking forward to the challenge of playing a sledge hockey game, even though most of them have never tried it before, or even seen a live game.
To put this event on the sledges are being brought up from Victoria.
If there's large community interest perhaps one day Nanaimo could have it's own sledges and it's own program.
There are three sledge hockey programs in BC that have a consistent turnout.
Those include Surrey, Vancouver, and Victoria.
The island program is run out of the Juan De Fuca Arena with about 23 sledges.
Allie Moore with BC Hockey says most of the sessions there are running at capacity.
This weekend's event in Nanaimo is free for the public.
Anyone can try out a sledge and Darcy Poitras with Victoria Wheelchair Sports says that includes kids as young as about seven.
"If somebody wants to play we will find a way to get them in a sled and we will find a way for them to have a good time," said Poitras.
Regular sledge hockey sessions have been around since 2017 at the Juan De Fuca Arena.
It started as a once a week offering but the plan is to expand that to twice a week starting in the fall.
Poitras says they have sledge hockey players with physical challenges and able bodied players as well.
In our province, sledge hockey programs aren't available in many communities yet which may be surprising given the sports long history.
It was invented in Sweden in the 1960's and spread throughout Europe.
The sport wasn't really played in Canada until the early 1990's.
Para Ice Hockey has been a paralympic sport since 1994 with Canada taking home one gold medal at the 2006 games.
The link to Canada vs the USA in the 2018 Paralympic gold medal game (courtesy: Paralympic Games)
Information about Saturday's sledge hockey demo is available at the VIU Mariners website or by contacting the Nanaimo Child Development Centre.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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