Sask. family aims to grow para ice hockey – 'the ultimate hockey family sport'
SASKATOON -- The Fairleys are travelling across Saskatchewan to demonstrate para ice hockey – informally called sledge hockey – for community members and minor hockey associations.
“Sledge is the ultimate hockey family sport. We can testify to it. I play, my husband plays, we bring our aunts uncles all the time,” Mia Fairley said while visiting Prince Albert.
Her son, Hayden, was born with spina bifida. Hayden first learned of the sport during a stay in hospital when he was 17-years-old. He tried it and has been playing it ever since.
“It’s so empowering. It’s just freeing,” he said. “You watch NHL and you’re like, ‘I wish I could do that,’ and then they were like, ‘you can play sledge hockey,’ so I am doing it. It’s a freedom that people with disabilities haven’t had.”
The family started a para ice hockey team in their hometown of Cut Knife; Kindersley, Bruno, Regina, Swift Current and Melville also have teams. The groups plan to meet in February to discuss creating a provincial body.
Tracy Arnold is on the women’s national team and is using her position to increase player numbers.
“It's given me the opportunity to introduce a lot of people to para ice hockey. I never knew that they could play it even if they are able-bodied,” Arnold said.
The most expensive part of para ice hockey is the sledge chair, which costs about $1,100. The Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association and Saskatchewan Lottery Grants are helping buy equipment.
Fairley said they hope to have more teams running by the fall.