MONCTON – The province’s first formal sledge hockey program will be launched in the fall.
It’s being launched by Easter Seals New Brunswick, and will be open to anyone of any age or ability.
Program Coordinator Roxane Millers says sledge hockey leagues already exist in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but this will be a first for New Brunswick.
She’s wrapping up a six week introductory clinic in Dieppe.
“We’ve had people from Bathurst and Fredericton and Grand Digue,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. Just to see the kids, they are so happy.”
Bernard Lapointe lost the use of his legs in an accident last year. Because of sledge hockey, he can play the sport he loves on a level playing field with his able-bodied friends.
“This is awesome and it’s fun! I wish some older people would show up so we can get a league going next year,” he said.
A league is the plan. Millers’ ultimate goal is to launch an actual formal sledge hockey league in the province by 2015. Something Maurice LeBlanc and his son Jacob have been waiting for, for years.
Jacob was born with a high-level pelvic amputation called a hemipelvectomy.
“He couldn’t play able-bodied hockey like his big brother and he plays competitive and little Jacob wanted to play hockey as well,” LeBlanc said.
And Jacob has some big dreams.
“I would like to play in the nationals for sledge hockey in 2022 for Team Canada,” he said.
The puck has only just dropped on the game in New Brunswick. It needs referees, coaches, funding and a rink to call home. But many are hopeful it will catch on.
“I am looking forward to what is going to happen in the future now that the ball is starting to roll,” said LeBlanc. “It is very exciting for us.”