WAWOTA - The seventh annual Sledge Hockey Tournament took place March 25 to 27 at the Wawota Rink with 13 teams taking part.
Sledge hockey is the Paralympic version of ice hockey. Instead of wearing skates, each player sits strapped to a two-blade sledge that is raised high enough to allow the puck to pass beneath.
Melanie Brimner, organizer of the event, arranges this tournament every year to bring awareness to others to see what it’s like to not have use of your legs. Several years ago her son, Blake Lamontagne, was in a car accident which left him with a physical disability in the lower part of his body and in need of a wheelchair.
“Normally hockey would have all finished at this time of year which means there would have been a few more faces around,” said Brimner. “Due to COVID hockey playoffs have been later than usual so some hockey players were still in playoffs that weekend.”
There were between 80 and 100 players taking part in this year’s recreational tournament.
All ages, no matter what their abilities were, came to play and enjoy the social event.
“My 10-year-old grandson was probably the youngest player this year. He looks forward to being one of the guys,” explains Brimner.
“The atmosphere was awesome throughout the weekend,” says Brimner.
“We haven’t had this tournament for a couple of years. Everyone said they forgot how much fun this tournament is.”
Everyone was definitely looking forward to socializing with friends again.
“It was nice not to have to wear a mask,” says Brimner, and adds, “and just hang out and have a good time.”
“Levi Jamieson out of Moosomin, who was in a side-by-side accident, is paralyzed and he was able to come out and take part as well, making the trip to Wawota with his friends and family.”
Jamieson got to know Lamontagne quite well through other sports.
After purchasing the set of sledge hockey chairs which cost $4,000, Brimner says the tournament brought in roughly $7,000. All money raised, after expenses, from the tournament and auction will be donated towards the Wawota Rink and STARS Air Ambulance.
The auction went over very well this year, having it both online and at the rink over the weekend for bidders to try their luck at their chosen items.
The online auction was successful, reaching a fair amount of people far and wide.
A TV was raffled off by Brimner with proceeds to go towards Lamontagne to compete in World Waterskiing competitions.
Brimner’s goal is to purchase a few more chairs down the road.
Brimner was happy with this year’s tournament.
“It was a really good turnout. Everybody had lots of fun. It was nice to see new faces. There were some people that I didn’t even know who they were. We lose some players and gain some players every year. We usually have a couple of teams from the lake but they weren’t able to enter this year.”
“I rented the sledge chairs to the U15 hockey team in Carlyle for their windup. Now they’re all rip roaring and ready to put a team in next year’s tournament. I popped in for one game and they said ‘we’re definitely putting in a team next year’.”
No special skills were needed to be part of a team but the winning team will enjoy bragging rights for the next year.
The 2022 tournament winners were Mitch Porter, Matthew Fahlman, Billy Easton, Jessie Schill, Lucas Porter, Maddie Mansfield, Emmett McCarthy and Walker Porter.