Sledge hockey is the Paralympic version of ice hockey. It is fast-paced, highly physical game played by athletes with a physical disability in the lower part of the body. Sledge hockey is an extremely exciting game for players and spectators and is currently played in 15 countries. To date, Canada, Norway, the USA, and Sweden have dominated international competitions, although strength is growing among other national teams.
Since its debut on the Paralympic program at the 1994 Lillehammer Paralympic Winter Games, sledge hockey has continued to grow in popularity, becoming one of the biggest attractions for spectators at the Paralympic Winter Games.
Sledge hockey has essentially the same rules as ice hockey. They were drafted from Canadian rules, with the main modifications involving the athletes’ abilities and equipment. While usually played by all male teams, the IPC approved an entry provision to allow qualified teams for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games to enter female athletes onto their roster.
All players are required to have standardized ice sledge hockey equipment as per the guidelines set by the IHEC (Ice Hockey Executive Committee). 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. Players also use two 75cm long hockey sticks, with spikes on one end and blades on the other. The spike is used to propel the sledge across the ice while the slightly curved blade is used to handle the puck. The goaltender may have an additional pick at the base end of his stick and may use an additional stick with a blade or a trapper glove with teeth.
Similar to ice hockey, each team has six players on the ice, including the goaltender. Teams are comprised of a maximum 15 players per team, including two goaltenders. Games consist of three 15-minute stop-time periods. Each team attempts to outscore its opponent by shooting the puck (a hard rubber disc) across the ice and into the opposing team's goal while preventing the opposing team from scoring.
For rules and regulations: http://www.ipc-icesledgehockey.org/Rules/
To participate in IPC competitions and sanctioned events (i.e. Paralympic Winter Games), athletes must have an impairment of permanent nature in the lower part of the body of such a degree that it makes ordinary skating, and consequently ice hockey playing, impossible. Examples include amputation, spinal cord injury, joint immobility, cerebral palsy and leg shortening of at least 7cm and "les autres."
- The IPC has established six disability categories applying to both the Summer and Winter Paralympics. Athletes with one of these physical disabilities are able to compete in the Paralympics though not every sport can allow for every disability category.
- Amputee: Athletes with a partial or total loss of at least one limb.
- Cerebral Palsy: Athletes with non-progressive brain damage, for example cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.
- Intellectual Disability: Athletes with a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and associated limitations in adaptive behavior.
- Wheelchair: Athletes with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, which require them to compete in a wheelchair.
- Visually Impaired: Athletes with vision impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness.
- Les Autres: Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide (the name for this category is French for “the others”).
The athletes are classified into three groups:
- Group 1 is for athletes with no sitting balance or with major impairment in both upper and lower limbs
- Group 2 is for athletes with some sitting balance and moderate impairment in their extremities
- Group 3 have good balance and mild impairment in their upper and lower limbs.
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