There's plenty of excitement surrounding tonight's (Jan. 26) exhibition sledge hockey game between the Cochrane Generals and some seasoned players from Sledge Calgary.
Interest has continued to grow since the Gens announced the fundraiser that will see the first-ever sledge game played at the SLS Centre. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Totem One.
Among the sledge players hitting the ice tonight is Jeff McCuaig, who plays for the Calgary Stingers, an intermediate 'C' team.
"We're extremely excited," he says. "Any way that we can get out there to grow our sport and help raise funds is fantastic and it's even better that we get to showcase it in a game. It's pretty rare that we get all this attention for this type of event."
The 32-year-old played stand up hockey his entire life until suffering a serious injury in 2016.
"I had one friend, who I had met after my accident, suggest I go out and try it. So, I went out and gave it a shot, and I eventually fell in love with it."
"It's all little muscles in your shoulder and back that you're using, so it's incredibly difficult to train your body to get used to the motion. And then you have to learn to balance on the blades underneath your sled. It all takes time to get used to, for sure."
The funds raised will support Sledge Calgary in continuing to introduce the sport to more people.
The costs add up. The specialized sleds range in price from $800 to $1,500. Then add a few hundred dollars for a pair of hockey sticks; one to pass, stick-handle and shoot the puck, the other to help propel and maneuver the sled.
On top of that, you require all the typical protective gear, except hockey pants.
Sledge Hockey welcomes people of all ages and genders to try the sport and lend equipment where necessary. Fund raised also assist with the cost of ice time for games and practices, and the costs associated with the annual Western Canadian Sledge Hockey Tournament, which is shared by Calgary and Edmonton. This year, it's being hosted by Calgary on the Easter Long Weekend.
"If anyone would like to help us raise money or find out ways that they can support us, please head over to calgarysledgehockey.ca or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org," says Jeff, "and we can help put you in the right direction."
Members of the Gens got one final crash course on the sport on Jan. 25 at WinSport.
Club president Rick Richards has volunteered for Sledge Calgary and calls it an exciting and dynamic sport that deserves more attention.
"We'd like to raise as much money as we can so they can buy more sleds, more sticks, because there's families that have handicapped children that can't afford that, and we just want to make it more accessible for them."
He says it's just the beginning of the relationship being built between the Gens and Sledge Calgary.