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Gliding Four Inches from the Ice: New York Rangers Sled Hockey

Photography by Kevin Lynch

The U.S. Sled Hockey team has won its third consecutive game at the 2018 Paralymipc Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and are headed to the semifinal round against Italy.

The following is republished, with update, from the August 2016 issue of MetroSports Magazine.

Quinnipiac University in Hamden Connecticut was the site of a July 9th ice hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Connecticut Wolfpack. But this was not a contest between the more widely-known professional NHL and AHL teams but was a game between their affiliated sled hockey teams and included athletes who, because of various physical challenges, are unable to compete in traditional stand-up ice hockey.

The New York Sled Rangers, founded about 10 years ago, are part of the Northeast Sled Hockey League (NSHL), affiliated with Wheelchair Sports Federation (WSF), and compete under the umbrella of the United States Sled Hockey Association (USSHA). WSF is a 501 (c) (3) organization that provides opportunities for disabled youth and adults to participate in both recreational and competitive sports. The event was supported by a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the No Limits Foundation, a 501(c) (3) charitable organization which provides camp opportunities and sports participation for children with limb loss. The team’s history can be traced back to the 1980’s and the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association which also fielded a team supported by the NY Islanders. Sled hockey is played on full-size, regulation hockey rinks, and follows the same rules with the exception of sleds in the place of skates and shortened sticks used to both propel the sleds and to hit the puck. The exciting parts of traditional, “stand-up” hockey, fast action, 60 mile-per-hour slap shots, and hard body checking are all still part of the sled hockey experience.

Sled hockey arrived in the U.S. less than 30 years ago, having originated in Sweden in the 1940s and is overseen by the national sanctioning body, the United States Sled Hockey Association. Players ride 4 inches above the ice on sleds formed from tubular metal with skate blades underneath and are strapped in place with Velcro strips. Players propel themselves using short, modified hockey sticks that have a blade on one end for handling the puck and an ice pick on the other side for pushing off against the ice. Helmets, masks, gloves and protective padding are all comparable to those used in traditional stand-up ice hockey. USA Hockey, the governing body for Olympic ice hockey in the United States, fields a sled hockey team, The US National Sled Hockey Team which represents the US in the Paralympic Games held every four years. Talented prospects from amateur sled hockey teams across the country are invited to participate as members of the USA Sled Hockey Development Team for preparation to compete for a spot on the US National Team. Ray Diaz, one of the members of the NY Rangers Sled Hockey team, has just recently been named to the USA Hockey Developmental team, an important step on the way to his playing on the US National Team. Keep an eye out for great things from this future Champion.

New York and New Jersey are currently well represented on the USA Sled Hockey team with the roster including Jack Wallace from Franklin Lakes, NJ, and a member of the N.J. Freeze Sled Hockey team, Josh Pauls of Green Brook, NJ, with the St Louis Blues, Luke McDermott of Westerlo, N.Y., and Adam Page of Lancaster, N.Y., with the Buffalo Sabres Sled Hockey team.

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