A sled hockey clinic held in Farragut gave local persons from age 5 to older with physical and cognitive disabilities an opportunity to try out the sport.
The clinic, organized by USA Hockey’s National Sled Hockey Program, was Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association’s launch for a new sled hockey program in East Tennessee,
KAHA was able to bring the event to Cool Sports Home of the Icearium, 110 S. Watt Road, on Saturday, March 19, because of a $25,000 grant KAHA received from USA Hockey in November 2015 to start up the sled hockey league, Rob Link, KAHA sled hockey director, said.
Sled hockey follows most of the typical ice hockey rules but sled hockey players use specially designed sleds that have blades on the bottom, similar to ice skates.
“We’re hoping for 25 [to attend],” Link said. “They will be a mix, from those brand new to the sport to Paralympians.
“Our goal is to have enough players for a tournament team and travel around the South and eventually around the country to compete in hockey tournaments.”
KAHA was one of 10 hockey programs across the country chosen for the grant as part a Labatt “Pass It Forward Initiative.”
“USA Hockey distributed $25,000, provided by Labatt Brewing Companies, Ltd., to start up new sled hockey programs nationwide,” Link said. ‘We were the only new program in the South to be awarded [the grant].”
The new sled hockey league at Cool Sports Home of the Icearium will start with regular practices in April.
Link said KAHA chose the Icearium because it was an interesting location.
“We are situated between Nashville, Atlanta and Chattanooga,” Link said. “It will be a positive impact on Tennessee and Farragut. We plan to host tournaments with teams coming from all over the Southeast.”
Adam Page, who won the gold medal in 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver and 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, was one of the Paralympians who attended the March 19 demonstration and shared his skills on the ice with attendees.
“It’s something I do for USA Hockey and with my dad [Norm Page, a volunteer with USA Hockey],” Page said about his presence at the clinic. “We start new sled programs around the country.
“It kind of gives kids an opportunity to play in an adaptive sport, sled hockey.”
Daniel Smith said he came to the clinic because he loves hockey.
“I’m an avid hockey fan. I have been for 10 years,” Smith said. “I’m hoping more people will enjoy [sled hockey] so Knoxville can get a team going.”
“I’m hoping to play on the team,” Carly Pearson, 2015 Miss Wheelchair Tennessee, said. “My platform is promoting adaptive sports and outdoors and recreation for people with disabilities. This is a big passion of mine.”