Hockey and sled hockey are similar. There is still thunderous communication between players, games are full-contact and fast-paced. The big difference between them is how players move on the ice.
Sled hockey players sit in sledges with two blades at the bottom and thrust themselves in all directions with ice picks attached to two hockey sticks they carry in each hand. It’s all for one main purpose – to get the puck in the goal.
Virginia Beach Hockey Club’s sled team captain Laurie Wood said when her brother told her about the sled hockey team, it gave her a reason to get off the couch. She was the second person on the team.
“You kind of feel like your life is over when you’re first told you’re never going to walk again for the rest of your life,” Wood said. “As soon as I got on the ice, as soon I as started moving, I was hooked.”
Wood has competed in sled hockey nationally with the women’s U.S. team for two years and continues to play for the VBHC sled team.
The team is comprised of 14 diverse disabled and able-bodied athletes who train and scrimmage at Iceland Skating on Broad Street Sundays at 4:30 p.m.
Many players on the team are inspired by a range of different things, but like Wood, wounded warrior and wing Quiani Miller said it’s the feeling of being on the ice is the hook.
“Once you get on the ice and you skate that first time, you’re gonna be hooked,” Miller said. “It’s an addiction now. When I can’t be [at the rink] it’s like man, I wish I could be on the ice instead of where I’m at.”
Mike Fleetwood, VBHC assistant director, has played hockey for about 14 years and also coaches the sled team as a volunteer. He said learning the sport is a group effort.
“We all kind of all learned together,” Fleetwood said. “It really interested me to get into a different area of hockey.”
The VBHC sled team is about five years old and operates primarily through the help of USA Hockey certified coaches, volunteers, donations and grants. But players do pay monthly dues that could go toward things like rink time and equipment.
“It’s hard without donations coming because we need the equipment, we need ice time – ice time is
not cheap and specialty equipment for disabled players is not cheap,” Wood said. “We rely solely on [donations] to keep the program running.”
One season costs the sled team a minimum of about $2,000 to fund 10 games, according to Fleetwood. Now, the team is raising money for its upcoming season through crowdfunding.
“The problem I found with fundraising is that you tap your friends and neighbors our really quick,” said Fleetwood. “So, to get more people involved that are not your friends and neighbors is what we really need to try an do.”
Fleetwood said connecting to more national organizations would be key in getting the team more funding.
The team’s goals for next year include increasing its recruiting efforts and training for games, like one they have against a sled hockey team in Raleigh, N.C. Wood said she’d ultimately like to see VBHC to create a sled hockey competition team.
“Despite everyone’s current situation, we all have one thing in common,” said player Katrina Velasco. “We are all ambitious.”