By SAMANTHA HEARN
Since Thursday, volunteers from Williamson County and all over in Middle Tennessee have been helping out at the seventh annual USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the NHL featuring a record 24 NHL-affiliated sled hockey teams.
Sled hockey is very similar to regular hockey, following most of the typical rules of the game. Providing the opportunity for many types of disabled people to play, players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades.
Each player has two sticks instead of one, and the sticks have metal picks on the butt end for players to propel themselves. Goalies wear similar equipment, but do make glove modifications. Metal picks are sewn to the backside to allow the goalie to maneuver.
The sport is quickly gaining traction in the U.S., and among the record 300 competitors slated to participate this weekend, 23 are current or former members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. Of those 23, 11 of them helped the U.S. claim the gold medal at the 2015 International Paralympic Committee Sled Hockey World Championship in Buffalo, New York, and a total of 13 players skated on U.S. squads that claimed gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Each of the 24 competing teams in the USA Hockey Sled Classic are affiliated with NHL clubs, including the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kinds, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The photos below show the St. Louis Blues playing the Buffalo Sabres, who won 4-0 on Saturday, Nov. 19.
The tournament will culminate on Sunday, Nov. 20 for all five divisions at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch. For a complete schedule, click here.
Admission is free and open to the public. The facility, operated by the Nashville Predators to continue the growth of hockey and skating in Middle Tennessee, is located at 5264 Hickory Hollow Parkway.
Samantha Hearn reports for Home Page Media Group. She can be reached via email at [email protected].