CUT KNIFE – Cut Knife is breaking out the sledges once again and celebrating 10 years of para hockey in the community this year.
Hayden Fairley was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. At a young age, there were few options available for him to play competitive sports. At the age of eight, he found a league in Ontario for para hockey and instantly loved the sport. When the family moved west to Edmonton, he sought out the para hockey league. His mom, Mia, coached the team when it was needed.
Another move back to the family farm near Baldwinton found the player looking for a new team. Once again, Mia was called on to help.
“I inquired to Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association to see what was available to us to get the sport active in the area. SWSA provided funds to purchase a few sledges and equipment to get started,” says Mia.
Since the club got started, Sask Lotteries has provided grant money over the years for the purchase of additional sledges. The average cost of a sledge and set of sticks is approximately $900. This year, the Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs provided grant funds to cover the cost of the ice rental as well.
The club has had four players that have been playing from the start. Hayden, his dad Heath, Mia and Dawson Pete of Poundmaker. Although players have come and gone, the para hockey clubs support each other when needed.
“We have had players travel from Spiritwood in the past to play and this year we have two coming from North Battleford. Often our team will join with other Saskatchewan teams for competitions as we all struggle with numbers,” Fairley says.
Most of the rules of the game are the same as ice hockey, with the noticeable difference being that players are seated on sledges. Players have two smaller handheld sticks with picks on the ends to help maneuver around the ice. The other end of the stick is a blade just like in hockey.
Players cannot skate backwards on the sledge and the periods are only 15 minutes. There is one penalty unique to para hockey. Teeing is when a player charges their opponent using the front radius of their sledge.
The Cut Knife Sledgehammers play against teams from Saskatoon, Regina, Bruno, Kindersley, Moosomin, Melville and Swift Current. Organizers are planning a game series that will see an Edmonton team and Bruno coming to Cut Knife sometime over the season.
“This sport is for all abilities. Drop in spots are available for anyone who would like to try it out. Our youngest member is 12 years old and we are always looking for more to join. Players will need to bring their own gloves and helmets, all other equipment will be provided,” Fairley explains.
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