Bay Blades sledge hockey team sees late season action

When the Opeongo Heritage Cup teams left the Paul J. Yakabuski Arena on March 31, it was not the end of hockey for the weekend. A group of eager players took to the ice to squeeze in an important practice. The Bay Blades Sledge Hockey Club wanted as much ice time as possible because the season isn’t over for their young players.

Ottawa Invitational

The Bay Blades will travel to Ottawa April 12-14 to participate in the Ottawa Invitational Sledge Hockey Tournament at the Goulburn Rec Centre, 1500 Shea Road, Stittsville, ON K2S 0B2. The schedule promises three days of non-stop action, with Barry’s Bay playing on Saturday April 13 as follows:

  • Kawartha at 10:30 a.m.
  • Northumberland at 1:15 p.m.
  • Ottawa at 4:45 p.m.

The Ottawa Senators Open team plays as follows:

  • Friday April 12: Northumberland at 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday April 13: Barry’s Bay at 4:45 p.m. (as above) and Kawartha at 7:30 p.m.

The Invitational semi-finals run from Saturday evening through to the finals Sunday afternoon. Click HERE for the full schedule.

Champions Day in Oakville

One member of the Bay Blades will also compete in the Ontario Sledge Hockey Association (OSHA) play-offs “Champions Day” on Sunday, April 7. This is nothing new for Chadd Stoppa, a student at St. John Bosco School in Barry’s Bay. His competitive team, the Ottawa Senators Open Sledge team, also made it to the play-offs in 2018. OSHA Sledge Champions’ Day will be held at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex, 3070 Neyagawa Boulevard, Oakville, ON L6M 4L6 this weekend. The match to watch is at 1:30 p.m.  on Sunday: Open Pool A – Ottawa vs Durham.

The competitive Ottawa Senators Open Sledge team wears the Ottawa Sens logo and is sponsored by the professional Ottawa Sens. The players are at least 11 years old, but their ages vary widely because skill level is more important than age in sledge hockey. The regional association Sledge Hockey of Eastern Ontario (SHEO) website says: “The Open program is open to all ages based on skill level. This level is “recreational” and for players who would not dominate with their skills or could not play at a higher level as they may not physically be able to do so. With players ranging from first-timers to experienced youth, this program focuses on skill development and fun as its main objectives.” Click here to visit the SHEO website.

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Chadd Stoppa competing in 2018 Champions Day

Inclusivity: a game for all abilities

When the Bay Blades hosted two exhibition games in Barry’s Bay on March 23, The Current talked to some of the players and their families about the sport. Some Bay Blades members also play stand-up hockey, but said they like to play sledge because “it’s fun” and “it’s a lot harder than it looks.” Without exception they told us that inclusivity is the key to sledge hockey. While they acknowledged that the teams do compete, they pointed out, “Whenever any team scores, we all cheer.” Unsurprisingly SHEO operates with the motto “Ice hockey for every body.”

Sens Open team head coach Rolly Desrochers acted as referee for the exhibition games in Barry’s Bay. He told The Current that sledge hockey rules are the same as stand-up hockey, with one additional penalty: it’s against the rules to T-bone an opponent’s sledge. He is very proud of the Open team making the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

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Tate Nicholson with referee Rolly Desrochers

All types of accommodations are used so that any young people with disabilities can also participate. Some of the players stand up and some of them require assistance in order to move. For instance, one of Chadd’s teammates from Ottawa, Leon Lis, cannot propel his sledge forward because of his disability so when he plays, Leon is supported by Treena Skory who pushes his sledge. “Pusher” Treena explains, “Together Leon and I are Treeon!”

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“Treeon” Leon Lis and teammate/pusher Treena Skory

The families and supporters of sledge players devote themselves to the sport every bit as much as stand-up hockey families do – and more. Leon’s family told us that last year they drove a 1600 km round trip from their home in Ottawa just so their son could participate in one match in Windsor. And as with all young athletes, Leon and his teammates said the excitement of staying overnight in a hotel and meeting their friends in the restaurant or swimming pool is almost as important as the game itself.

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March 23 Sledge Day in Barry’s Bay: (from left) Alain Bazinet in the net, Easton, Emily (adult in red); coach Todd Nicholson makes an adjustment for Louie. Nicholson participates in the Ottawa Carleton Sledge Hockey Association when not competing for Canada.

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From left: Enthusiastic sledge hockey fans; no ice access from Barry’s Bay benches so players wait beside the boards for line changes. Below volunteers Charlie Stoppa and Ella Etmanskie miss the excitement to help out at the door.

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The March 23 exhibition games in Barry’s Bay gave the local kids who don’t compete in Ottawa a chance to play. The Bay Blades greeted the families and players from Ottawa with a pizza lunch before hosting two matches that afternoon. Admission fees and raffles raised $360 for the club.

And everybody in the crowd cheered for every goal.

The Current wishes members of the Barry’s Bay Blades and the Ottawa Sens Open Team good luck in the upcoming play-offs. We encourage any fans in the area to come out and support them in their late season games.

Featured photo at top: Gwen (left in pink helmet), Tate and Easton hard at it.

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