A part of the Paralympics
Sledge hockey is hockey for disabled. Internationally it is called “Para Ice Hockey” since the English word sledge can have another meaning in other languages. Sledge hockey became a part of the Paralympics in 1994 and there has been a World Championship since 1996. The most successful countries in the sport are the same as in ice hockey, with the exception of Russia and some eastern European countries. The first international rules came in the beginning of the 90s with Canadian rules as a starting point.
Rules and implementation
The players, as the name tells, sits in sledges that skates on the ice. To make it forward in the ice the players use short sticks with a peg on the shaft to get a grip on the ice. The rest of the stick looks like a regular hockey stick, just shorter. During practice there are usually both disabled and regular, healthy players. It is not essential to be strong-armed but total mobility is crucial. At a competition level the games are played in periods five minutes shorter than regular ice hockey, fifteen minutes. Women are not allowed on men’s national team at the Paralympics, but a change is wanted. The hope is to open the tournaments to mixed teams with both men and women. One of the reasons to use mixed teams is because it can be hard to get together a team of only women. One way to increase access for women is to allow mixed teams.
Sledge hockey was developed in Sweden in the beginning of the 60s. It started in a very small scale where the participants played on a frozen lake with small goals and no goalkeeper. They didn´t have actual sticks, instead they had handlebars serving as sticks. In the late 60s the rumour of sledge hockey had spread to Norway where it was tried out as well. The first game between the countries, Sweden and Norway, was in March 1969. In the same era a series for sledge hockey was started in Stockholm with five teams with both disabled and healthy people. There was no organized practice and the teams only played a couple of games every year. At Paralympics for disabled in 1976 there was a show-game played between two Swedish teams. This was the first time you could watch sledge hockey on television. During the 80s and the 90s several countries joined in with sledge hockey teams. In 1996 Germany started their first team and during the season of 2000/2001 the Bundesliga for sledge hockey was started. In 1991 the first World Cup was played with five teams contesting, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Great Britain and USA. Canada won by beating Sweden in what was the first loss for Sweden in 25 years. So far, no country had beaten Sweden. Today the difference is small between the countries participating in the Paralympics. Canada and USA both have strong teams but are challenged by European teams like Estonia, Germany and Sweden.