Once you get over your initial excitement that a sled hockey team is coming to State College, you might be left with a few questions — something along the lines of “what in the hallowed name of Wayne Gretzky is sled hockey and why is it here in State College?” for example.
Well fret not, because answers are on their way.
First things first: According to USA Hockey, this spin on the sport was originated at a rehabilitation center in Stockholm, Sweden.
Patients with physical disabilities wanted to play hockey — and play they did, using sleds that sat on top of skate blades and an extra stick to propel themselves forward.
“Sled hockey is great for people with balance and gait issues,” said Alexis Russell, administrator for the State College team.
Sled hockey is great for people with balance and gait issues.
The fledgling program is casting a wide net — Russell said anyone aged 5 to 95 is welcome to participate.
They have yet to hold their first practice, but the roster is divided almost evenly between people with and without disabilities.
Siblings Braden and Brandy Meckley attended a clinic the team held last year and were the first names added to the roster.
Braden is 22 years old and uses a walker, while Brandy — a decade his senior— has intellectual disabilities.
Neither of those things has ever stopped them from participating in athletics, whether it’s the Little League Challenger Division or the track and field component of the Special Olympics.
The beauty of the whole thing is my kids don’t look at themselves as having disabilities.
“The beauty of the whole thing is my kids don’t look at themselves as having disabilities,” their mother, Dianna Meckley, said.
Both Braden and Brandy like to remain active and Dianna Meckley thinks that the team aspect of sports provides a social outlet.
The ice will take some getting used to, though.
“They did become a little frustrated because they couldn’t keep their balance on the sled,” Meckley said.
Starting on Oct. 8 — if the equipment arrives on time— they’ll have plenty of time to practice. The team will meet from 4-5 p.m. every Sunday at Pegula Ice Arena.
Spectators have been cordially invited to attend, while prospective hockey players should reach out to Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org.