This past weekend, March 4th, 5th and 6th, 2016, the 4th Annual Wounded Warrior Sled Hockey tournament was held at SUNY Canton in Canton, NY. The CNY Flyers were just one of six teams that were in this year’s tournament. The five other teams that participated this year included the Ft. Drum Mountain Warriors, the Buffalo Warrior Vets, the Durham Steelhawks, the Ottawa Valley Falcons, and the Kingston Knights. These 6 teams played a total of 17 games over the course of three days.
Sled hockey is a form of ice hockey designed to allow people with disabilities to participate in the sport in a modified manner. The invention of sled hockey makes it possible for everyone to enjoy playing this high energy, exciting game. Each player in sled hockey maneuvers on the ice in a specially designed sled.
To help motor across the ice each player has a set of hockey sticks that look like a short hockey stick with picks on the ends. The picks allow the players to push themselves up and down the ice. When they get to the puck they have to flip their sticks over in order to hit the puck with the other end of the stick.
It is arguably harder to play sled hockey than it is to play the conventional way. Each player needs to have incredible upper body strength and lots of endurance to last an entire game. Depending on the disability that each individual has there are other considerations that need to be made. For example because of my lack of coordination and balance I am allowed to have a pusher to help me move across the ice.
This is one way that the sport is designed to be all inclusive for anyone that wants to be part of the team. The rules for sled hockey are almost identical of those for regular hockey, sled hockey players even check and hit just like the conventional sport.
The CNY Flyers are comprised of an impressive group of individuals that have an array of disabilities amongst them. The determination that each player displays is a credit to their character and passion for life. To witness a game in person is the best way for you to understand what this sport involves, to participate is the best way to get an idea of how difficult it is. Our team has a wide array of talent and ability.
With each season each individual improves and their skills get more and more polished. One of the best players on our team, Colin Gooley #1, is also on the developmental team which is one step away from getting a place on our US Paralympic Team. This honor is not easily achieved and we are all supporting and routing him on. This weekend at our tournament we had a first time rookie goalie, our assistant coach, Patrick Gridley. He stepped up and in as our goalie as our regular goalie was unable to make the tournament. He did a fantastic job in his first game debut and all of the games thereafter.
The rest of our roster from this weekend’s tournament included Stephen Siracusa #11(me) and my pusher, Matthew Spicer, David Cloutier #47, Bob Bulk #40, Jack Zyra #26, Darren Zyra #13, Erik Ryan #27, Eric Komar #32, Jessica Schreiner #6, Karen Loomis #9 and most importantly our devoted coach, Chuck Gridley. It is also important to mention that Susan Arnold, our team manager, is the glue that holds our team together with her coordination of games and practices and mechanical skills that we often need for quick repairs.