These athletes on ice prove hockey is hockey — no matter how it’s played.
Gatorade Canada surprised members of the Cruisers Sledge Hockey team in Mississauga, Ontario, with a pick-up game last August amongst some of their favorite National Hockey League (NHL) stars. The Cruisers team — which is part of a larger program that gives people with physical disabilities the opportunity to partake in athletics — were told they were being filmed for a documentary by the sports drink company.
The surprise was a life goal in the making.
“As a child, I wanted to play with these guys,” Kevin Duchane, a goalie for the Cruisers, said in the video above. “And then having my accident and thinking I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play with them — [this has been the] time of my life.”
To Cruisers Sports, participating in athletics is much more than proving your ability through a scoreboard. Sports provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to integrate into a community of others with similar experiences, the program notes. It also helps develop self-esteem and confidence, as well as promotes self-sufficiency, encouraging participants to exhibit a healthy attitude about physical fitness.
And just because sledge hockey players — who use specially designed sticks and play on lightweight sledges with skate blades — may partake in the sport differently than their professional counterparts, it doesn’t mean they have it any easier.
“For the people who may say it’s not as hard or it’s not as fast-paced,” one of the Cruisers said in the video. “All I would say to those people is, ‘Come and try it out.'”
An “embarrassed” Claude Giroux, who plays center for the Philadelphia Flyers, was one of those who did come and try it out: “A couple of those guys did circles around us,” he joked in the video.
“Just seeing the poise and the character and the mental strength — they really are an inspiration for all of us,” Sidney Crosby, a center for the Pittsburgh Penguins, said. “I think their passion for hockey is something we all share, no matter what our situation or where we come from.”