RANDOLPH, NJ- Passing, shooting, puck handling. All are part of the usual scene at an ice rink when a hockey tournament is being played.
When Aspen Ice held a big hockey tournament the weekend of Jan. 6-8, the only difference was the athletes sat in a bucket-shaped sled and played a variation of the sport called Sled Hockey.
“The difference between sled hockey and regular hockey is the equipment, otherwise it is the same sport,” stated Jack Wallace of the New Jersey Freeze.
Sled Hockey is an adaptation of the sport for those that are disabled. Although don’t tell that to these athletes because they play just as hard as someone on two skates.
The Northeast Sled Hockey League (NESHL) ran the tournament to promote sled hockey in Randolph.
“The tournament was intended to provide people in New Jersey the chance to witness sled hockey, and we hope to have new people try the sport,” said league president Mike Ciavarro. “The only way to do that is to put on a two day tournament.”.
Teams from New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New York, as well as a team of Wounded Warriors, competed in the tournament. The Host team, New Jersey Freeze, came up with 2 wins in 4 games.
However, the tournament would be more than wins and losses, and if you ask any of these athletes they would say that the comradery is the best part of the tournaments.
“It’s great to see people in the [sled] community playing a game and then socializing after and forgetting the score of the last game,” New Jersey Freeze player-coach Gary Runyon stated.
Over the two days these athletes could go through a grueling day of competition and then find time to go out after the games. The atmosphere around the rink was great, as able-bodied people found out about sled hockey as they watched skilled athletes that “happened to have a disability,” Compete at a high level.