WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Friday morning, the 15th annual New England Sled Hockey Invitational kicked off in Westfield.
A gathering of athletes with physical challenges taking to the ice for fast paced hockey action.
Make no mistake about it. There is nothing disabled about these athletes on the ice in Westfield.
They may face challenges most people don’t, but their passion for hockey is universal
“It’s the same as the game of hockey. It just allows people with physical challenges or disabilities to get involved in the game. The rules are pretty much the same. The only difference is that everyone sits on a sled with blades underneath,” says tournament organizer Carole Appleton.
“The goalies have spikes on there glove and spikes on there sticks to slide sideways over in front of the net,” adds athlete Ben Eastman
For the past 11 years, Amelia Park in Westfield has hosted the tournament. Athletes from as far away as Canada in what they call a season ending party of friendship and competition.
Marshall Rainey notes, “Just having all the teams come together to learn new skills and play hard.”
The sport atmosphere is the same no matter able bodied or disabled. It’s still out there. We are not doing it just for hugs. We want to win.”
And that drive to overcome any challenge is a reminder that we are all one
“For that one hour or one and a half hours, they are just any other athlete. They just do it a little differently.”
“It’s the only hour I have to where I can’t do that or you can’t do that. It’s that hour that the only that’s out there is sports and winning.”
Admission to the weekend sled hockey games is free at the Amelia Ice Arena in Westfield. The championship matches will be held on Sunday starting at 7:00 a.m.