Thursday, January 21, 2016

Play Sled Hockey with Spaulding!

Last week I visited a sled hockey program at one of our DCR skating rinks and spontaneously ended up in hockey pads and helmet, doing puck passing and checking drills, and playing in game! After fifteen years of offering adapting skating programs in DCR skating rinks, it was a treat to experience the competitive dimension of sled hockey.

Three program staff were fitting new players and their companions into ice sleds when I arrived at the O'Neil Rink in Charlestown. There is a bit more to fitting people to ice sleds when hockey is involved. Blades are adjusted closer together and positioned under the sled for best balance to lift the front end of the sled and minimize drag on the ice. A nice tight fit into the seat allows the whole sled to become part of your body. The hardest part for me was grabbing sticks with hockey gloves on!

Thank goodness we were all relatively new players and somewhat comparable in skill level. Last time I got on the ice with sled hockey players many years ago I was definitely left in the icy dust when the puck shot across the rink. This time I got to appreciate feeling clumsy with other beginners. As we worked through drills lead by Nick McCummings I noticed my skill level improving in just one session. Nick provided excellent coaching from conventional ice skates, demonstrating technique and safety points by sitting down on the ice. Spaulding staff Zoe and Shaylah were in sleds doing drills and playing as well. The experience was a total blast and I was reminded of how much fun it is to engage in physical team play.

This new sled hockey program is offered by Spaulding Adaptive Sport Centers, an affiliate of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. They are quickly building a network of locations in eastern Massachusetts with the aim of developing both adult and youth players to form teams and a competitive league over the next few years. I am very impressed with what Spaulding and their collaborators have already accomplished in just over a year. The program, officially called the Dr. Bernard R. & Edna M. Sears Adaptive Hockey Program, is offered at seven rinks in eastern Massachusetts and one rink in southern New Hampshire. Collaborators include Northeast Passage, Massachusetts Hockey, and the Boston Shamrocks, in addition to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

There is not cost to participants in 2015-2016 thanks to a generous gift from Dr. Bernard R. and Edna M. Sears. For further info, contact Spaulding Adaptive Sport Centers at 877-976-7272.

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