The British Para Ice Hockey league is in full swing, the season began on April 22nd with the league runners-up Manchester Mayhem taking on the reigning champions Kingston Kestrels at the home of the Widnes Wild.
But what exactly is Para Ice Hockey?
The sport was invented in 1960 at a Stockholm rehabilitation centre after a group of men became determined to continue playing the sport they loved despite their physical impairments. The early equipment design included sleds on top of two skates and two round poles with bike handles for sticks!
The sport quickly spread around Europe and in 1969 Stockholm hosted the first match between a local club team and one from Oslo, Norway.
During the 1970’s the sport gained popularity throughout Sweden and Norway but it wasn’t until much later that the sport began to gain notoriety further afield, with teams appearing in Great Britain (1981), Canada (1982), USA (1990), Estonia and Japan (1993).
Para Ice Hockey was known as sledge hockey until being renamed in 2016 by the International Paralympic Committee, when asked about the name change Alexis Shaefer replied; “Firstly, we hope using para will make the sports more distinctive from the equivalent Olympic or able-bodied sports, secondly, the new look for each sport allows for a more consistent and uniform promotion of para sport. Finally, this move ensures that the Agitos and the word Paralympic is only used in association with the Paralympic Games.”
Essentially all of the regular rules of Ice Hockey in stand-up Ice Hockey leagues apply to Para ice hockey, the differences are those necessitated by the ice sled and the athlete themselves.
The first set of international rules was created in 1990 and was drafted from Canadian rules. The only rule unique to Para ice hockey is Teeing-charging an opponent using any part of the front radius of the sled.
Entrance to the players benches and penalty benches from the ice are built flush with the playing ice so the players can access them without aid. Additionally, the surface area inside the players’ benches and penalty benches are made of smooth plastic or ice, to avoid damage to the players’ sledges.
A full list of fixtures are listed below and many of the games are free to enter and are a fantastic way to introduce your children, family and friends to a world that they may not be fully aware of.
22 April: Manchester v Kingston (at Widnes 1630)
12 May: Kingston v Sheffield (1245); Peterborough v Manchester (1615)
26 May: Kingston v Cardiff (1245)
2 June: Peterborough v Cardiff (1615)
3 June: Sheffield v Peterborough (1615)
9 June: Manchester v Cardiff (at Altrincham 1615)
16 June: Sheffield v Kingston (2130)
23 June: Cardiff v Sheffield (1715)
30 June: Cardiff v Manchester (1715)
1 July: Peterborough v Kingston (1615)
7 July: Kingston v Peterborough (1245)
14 July: Cardiff v Kingston (1715)
21 July: Sheffield v Manchester (1630)
28 July: Sheffield v Cardiff (2130)
4 August: Cardiff v Peterborough (1715)
5 August: Manchester v Sheffield (at Widnes 1630)
11 August: Manchester v Peterborough (at Altrincham 1615)
18 August: Peterborough v Sheffield (1615)
25 August: Kingston v Manchester (1245)