Massachusetts is near and dear to our hearts here at Wheel:Life, as I grew up in the western part of Massachusetts. By western, I mean out near the historic Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. At any rate, from time to time, I check in on the local stories back in my old stomping grounds just to stay in touch with current events. Recently, I came across a very cool sled hockey team that fits right into our community.
The Western Mass Knights is an organized hockey team that competes in the New England Sled Hockey League. The team was created for people with disabilities living within the New England area. The league currently has just 6 teams, but is growing and looking to expand with the addition of new teams. Age range in the league varies from 18-55, and both men and women alike are allowed on teams making it a fully co-ed hockey league. The NESHL also has a fanatic mission statement: “The mission statement of the NESHL is “to provide an environment where individuals, with and without disabilities, can develop as athletes, leaders, and community members through a competitive Sled Hockey league that emphasizes commitment, discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship.”
Contrary to what most would believe, the NESHL is a full contact league, and the players wouldn’t have it any other way! “A lot of sports that are modified for disabled athletes, they don’t allow a lot of contact,” Drouin said. “With sled hockey, there’s only two rules that are different from conventional hockey. It’s t-boning (ramming one sled into another) and spearing somebody with the bottom of your metal picks. Other than that, it’s the same rules as regular hockey.”
One Knights player specifically said that sled hockey has allowed him to become a better person, and the values of teamwork and respect that he has learned are invaluable “You’re out on the ice and, yes, we all have a disability, but for that 45 minutes that we’re out there, we don’t even think about it. We don’t even really remember,” Drouin said. “It’s just us playing hockey. We might play it a different way because we’re not skating like able-bodied people are, but for us, it’s just playing the sport. It’s kind of therapeutic for me.”
One thing that’s for sure is this sport is serious, and these players are just as tough as the pro hockey players we love to watch on TV. In addition to playing in the NESHL, the Knights participate in many local charity games within the area. A list of these games and times are listed below. We love this program and it is great to see folks getting out and being active and not letting their disability hinder their hobbies. We hope that you check out the Knights and some of the other teams in the NESHL, as this high octane full contact sport is sure to provide a heart pounding experience. For more information, please visit their website: http://www.neshl.org/jcms/
Upcoming Knights Sled Hockey Events
WHAT: Charity game vs. UMass Mens Club – donations welcome
TIME/DATE: 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 23
PLACE: Amelia Park Ice Arena
WHAT: Cammer Cup charity game vs. Hampden Bank Men’s League Team before Falcons game. Tickets are $17/adult and $12/juniors – proceeds to benefit the area sled hockey teams.
TIME/DATE: 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 30
WHAT: 15th Annual New England Invitational Sled Hockey Tournament
TIME/DATE: game times TBD on Friday-Sunday, April 26-28
PLACE: Amelia Park Ice Arena
About the Author: Justin Racine, from Boston, serves as a Category Manager for Invacare Supply Group. He graduated from Western New England University with a B.S.B.A in Marketing Communication/Advertising. When he’s not busy with Marketing, Justin enjoys competing in 10K races, Boston sports, and spending time with friends and family.