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Ben Makes It Enjoyable

Photo D. Laird Allan

This past weekend I had the privilege to do play by play working with Ben Dooley for the Canadian National Sledge Hockey Championships at the Richmond Oval that would see 10 games played over 3 days to determine a champion.

I have seen this sport played at various locations and have a personal friend, Duane Evans take up the sport following his accident.

He tells me this is something he never thought of playing, but after he got involved in playing it become addictive and he looks forward to having an evening out with the group.

True it’s not for everyone and not everyone understands it, but once you have seen (in person) a game live you will want to watch more and more games.

My contact for the event was Ross MacDonald the Executive Director of SportAbility and is also a two-time Canadian Wheelchair Basketball National Team member and has also been on the Canadian National Soccer Team for four consecutive years.

It should be known that the sport of Sledge Hockey, now called para Ice Hockey was invented in Sweden and invented to allow individuals who have a physical disability to play and be a part of this interesting and unique sport.

Invented by two men in Sweden in the 60ties, when fast cars were all the rage and no different from driving this sport also has rules and regulations all with safety in mind.

The design of the sled includes two skate blades on a metal frame that allowed the puck to pass underneath.

They completed or added to this unique design by adding including two round poles with bike handles for sticks, now changed to a stick like design.

Although there are many restrictions to the measurements and weight of the sleds used there has been little change from the original design to the ones that are being used in today’s game.

So with this past being an experience for me, I made plans to attend the first day of competition to meet the staff who were professional in all areas and understanding what I required for broadcasting the final game(s) of the Championship.

Being familiar is a necessity for any broadcaster and a lack of preparation not only shows a disrespect for the sport, it shows your lack of devotion to the Olympic game played at various rinks around the world.

This is the first time that the 2018 Championship were held in Vancouver and while there were not 18,000 attending, the crowds were extremely respectable all weekend, many of which had never been to the Richmond Olympic Oval – until now.

Four Provincial teams competed for the Championship with Team Alberta winning the two previous meetings.

Other than Alberta the other three respectable squads were Team Ontario, Team Quebec and host Team BC with the final Championship games played on Mother’s Day.

Team Ontario pulled out a 5-0 victory over Team BC in the Bronze medal match-up in the morning that saw Team Alberta square off against Team Quebec in the Gold final.

While the sport is new to the area, it should be known that the officials selected by BC Hockey had an extensive learning curve for the rules, with several key instructions given, such as don’t get in the way.

Prior to the final game I spoke with referee Kyle Simms and he mentioned “you have to be somewhat like a drone, floating over the play as it’s easy to lose sight of the puck.”

The provincial body or Hockey BC did a respectable job in obtaining qualified officials, one of which was good friend Sandra Lowe.

It was great to see the adjustment that they had to undertake considering the were under the watchful eye of BC Hockey RIC Sean Raphael, who was not necessarily in a supervisor role, but more of a learning role should future championships come to the Province.

Overall this was a fun and enjoyable event to not only cover, but broadcast along side good friend Ben Dooley.

Thanks to the organizing committee, the volunteers and the staff at the Oval to make this such a huge success.

While Team Alberta was the overall winner pulling out a narrow 1-0 victory the real winner was the Sport of Sledge Hockey!!!!!

Thanks to the Sportswave crew, Bruce Nolte and Laird Allan for their assistance.