Shaker Ice Hockey Celebrates Disabled Athletes

Adaptive ice breaker program provides new opportunities for disabled athletes through sled hockey.

Before the start of the regular season, Shaker hockey players share the challenge of their sport with their disabled peers in the annual Ice Breaker event. 

Youth Challenge is a non-profit organization based in Cleveland, created in 1976 for disabled kids and young adults who don’t have the same opportunities as their peers. Youth Challenge offers about 20 different organized sports, ranging from wheelchair basketball to blind soccer.

Chris Garr, CEO of Youth Challenge, said that the program impacts the disabled athletes monumentally. “There are some really great lessons like leadership, growth, building confidence and problem solving that kids learn from being on a team,” Garr said. “And we provide those opportunities for kids who oftentimes don’t have those opportunities readily presented to them.”

Sled hockey adapts the sport so that disabled athletes can play. Players use their sticks and hands to propel their sleds around the ice and into position for shots.

Head Coach Matthew Bartley organized the first Ice Breaker event in 2015. “We love to give back to people that may not otherwise have a chance to play hockey,” he said. “We always, in our program, talk about giving back and volunteering because some people don’t get these opportunities to participate.” The most recent event took place Oct. 15 at Thornton Park’s Bartley Arena.

Bartley said it’s important for his players to learn how much effort the disabled athletes make to play the game. “I think it’s good for them to see how tough it actually is,” Bartley said. “They kind of see how hard it is,” Bartley said, “It’s not as easy as it looks because it’s a lot of arms.”

Sophomore wing  Joey Moore participated in the event. “We got to give back to the community and spread the love of hockey with everyone, and show that nothing can stop you from enjoying hockey,” Moore said in a text message.

Moore said that playing sled hockey was more difficult than he expected. “It is definitely more difficult to maneuver and shoot. You have to use your arms to propel yourself and you have to use your leverage with just one arm to shoot the puck,” he said.

Moore is excited to play with the disabled athletes again. He wrote, “I look forward to being on the ice with them again and I can say that it was a great experience for all of us and it will continue to be in the years to come.”

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