Cochrane sledge player Shane Mott is fired up about being able to play in front of a hometown crowd for the first time since taking up the sport at age 10.
Now 21, he is one of the players from Sledge Calgary that will be playing the Cochrane Generals in a fundraising game on Friday (Jan. 26). The Gens will be facing some of the best sledge players in the Calgary area, including members of Team Canada and Alberta.
Shane typically travels to Calgary twice a week to play and has just returned from a tournament hosted by Medicine Hat last weekend.
"I haven't had a chance to show it off to Cochrane, and it's honestly kind of exciting," says Shane.
He hasn't looked back since beginning to play at a young age.
"I grew up liking watching hockey, but I wasn't necessarily able to play the stand-up version of it," he says. "It's funny, because I was asking my parents for the longest time and then when I was 10, they finally took me out to this tryout event, and I came off the ice with the biggest smile on my face because I finally got to do it. It just grew from there."
That same season (2014), his Venom team won the Western Canadian Sledge Hockey Tournament.
"Actually, after that one, we won another one. So, it was back-to-back and that was just really fun, especially with all these people who I'm still playing with now. They still have that same love for the sport and growing with them has been a really rewarding experience."
Shane has cerebral palsy. It presents him with challenges like balance and strength, specifically in his lower body.
"Sledge has definitely helped me throughout my life, not just in a physical way, but also in the mental way. You're surrounded by people who have similar experiences to you, and growing in that community is helpful."
He estimates Sledge Calgary has doubled in size since he joined and appreciates the additional exposure being offered by the Cochrane Generals.
"We do fundraisers whenever we can, and they're all really important. They help us fund basically everything we do from the big Western tournament that we host, to games, ice times and equipment. There's a whole bunch that goes into running the team, and this event, and others like it, help us grow."
Some of the Gens players have been getting a quick lesson on how to play.
"There were a few of us out there to help them get a little bit accustomed to the equipment and the sleds. It's definitely a different experience when you're going from stand up into the sleds. A lot of the. positioning is very similar, but the muscle groups you use are completely different."
"It takes quite a bit of coordination, as any sport does. It takes a lot of core strength to keep yourself balanced, and you use a lot of arm and back strength."
Sledge hockey was invented in Sweden in the 1960s. It became more widely known as a Paralympic winter sport in the early 1990s when it made its debut at the Winter Paralympics Games held in Lillehammer, Norway.
Sledge Hockey welcomes people of all ages and genders. It has four teams: the Scorpions (senior team), Stingers (intermediate), and Venon and Strikers, their development teams.
They are a member of Hockey Alberta, who was the first provincial minor hockey organization to recognize the sport.
The game gets underway on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Totem One.