Sled hockey takes over local rink

MARQUETTE — Over the weekend, another form of hockey took over Lakeview Arena.

This past Saturday, SAIL, the disability network, teamed up with the Grand Rapids Sled Wings team, giving individuals with disabilities and locals in the community a chance to try a sport that everyone can equally compete in.

“At first I think everyone was just helping people get into sleds and get on the ice,” Sarah Peurakoski said. “But I think after awhile about an hour in every volunteer wanted to get on the ice and be out there.”

The equipment was donated by USA Hockey. The sleds have a plastic bucket which sits on an aluminum frame with two regular skates below placed three to four inches apart. Advanced players set skates one inch apart, making it easier to maneuver.

Players use two sticks, one end of the stick contains a metal pick to help players get around the ice. The only difference from regular hockey is the equipment.

“It’s a great way to gain independence if you have a disability,” Steve Kozlowski said. “You know the biggest comment we hear when players get on the ice is, it’s so nice because it’s an equal playing field nobody has an advantage over me once I get on the sled.”

Joe Gavlek from Escanaba typically only gets to play once a year and was excited to have the opportunity in Marquette.

“Well it helped me improve, all the skills I improved,” Joe Gavlek said. “Go fast and just mess around.”

Sled hockey has been around since the ’60s. Although the community had tremendous help from SAIL and various teams, Saturday never would have happened without the idea and passion from Allen Beauchamp.

“I played hockey all my life, in 2010 I was involved in an accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down,” Allen Beauchamp said. “Thought at that point hockey was over with as far as me playing I found the adaptive sport sled hockey.”

Around 35 participants came to try out sled hockey at the clinic.

“It was amazing just to see the smiles on everybody’s face, people that have never been on the ice before,” Beauchamp said.

SAIL’s first official sled hockey clinic has come to an end.