Power chairs on ice made a second developmental debut in Revere today at the Cronin Rink. A small group of power chair users gathered to test their wheels on the ice and play a game of....power ball? Could it be that this was the first time such a game took place on ice using a fitness ball? Who knows?
By way of warmup, we practiced some maneuvers with a seven cone slalom down the center of the rink, then some 2 lap races around the line of cones. Socializing, spinning and gliding intermingled with these more serious endeavors. I warmed up my fingers trying to make the stopwatch work, but competitive timed events fell by the wayside once we noticed that six people in powerchairs could create two teams of three.
While public skating went on at the rink's circumference, the interior was defined with long bolsters and two nets. After some consideration, it was determined that a coin toss was the best way to start the game. Once started, the game took on a life of its own and everyone soon forgot about time.
For Nick, only 5 1/2 months into life in a power chair, this was the best day he'd experienced since his injury. Barry and John, both using sip-and-puff technology to propel their chairs, were able to enjoy the game at the same pace as those using toggle switches, though they didn't always have as much control. Tom, ever a fan of sliding on the ice in his power chair, found the game interaction especially fun. It was Richard's first time on ice, and with a mid-wheel drive chair with a lot of pep, he had great control of the ball and was the first one to score a goal. John, the rink manager, relished the chance to use an extra power chair brought by Tom.
As I skated around taking photos, I observed the game to be like a slow motion form of power soccer. People were naturally sensitive about their chairs, especially without any protection, such as the guards around the front of the chair that are used in power soccer.
The fitness ball met the needs of the players well. When they lightly collided with it between them, it absorbed the impact and gently pushed them apart. The ball took some abuse and held up without incident. Occasionally a group of four would sandwich the ball, making for interesting interaction to see who would move so the ball would come free. The ball moved smoothly on the ice but didn't travel far when pushed, so it was easy to keep up with and carry forward. The ice added that random tricky element, as people sometimes got caught with spinning wheels in a slick spot. Otherwise, thanks to John's careful zamboni work before we played, traction was mostly good with the different chair models, especially in the slower speeds.
Power chairs on ice will take place again on Tuesday, February 23 at the Cronin Rink at 850 Revere Beach Parkway. For further information, contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-545-5353.