WEST SAND LAKE, N.Y (NEWS10) – With days before their first practice, a handful of local sled hockey players with disabilities still needed volunteers to skate with and push their sled so they can play. A sled hockey pusher is the unsung hero of the team, assisting any player who cannot propel himself due to mobility disabilities.
One of these athletes was Abigail Radliff, a 27-year-old with cerebral palsy who trades her wheelchair for a sled and plays defense for STRIDE’s “Capital District Sled Warriors” team. Volunteers to push the sleds to come and go, and Radliff was one of the players who needed a pusher for the upcoming season. Luckily, members of the RPI men’s hockey team found out about the need and immediately stepped forward to volunteer.
“I know it will mean a lot to our adaptive players having Division 1 college athletes by their side to share their hockey experiences with,” said Mary Ellen Whitney, STRIDE’s Founder/President. “Our sled hockey team are the defending gold medal champions from the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid, and I know RPI’s hockey program won a national championship. It’s great to bring competitive successes together like that, but at the end of the day everything is about participation and inclusion. We’re all grateful these student-athletes will be sharing their passion for the game and enabling players with disabilities to get out on the ice and fly. Many of our athletes tell me that when they play, it’s like they don’t have a disability.”
According to STRIDE’s Program Director, Camille Pawlowski, members of the RPI men’s hockey team will volunteer as their schedule allows for practices and competitions. STRIDE’s sled hockey team hopes to return to Lake Placid to defend their title, and they also are defending champions at the Amelia Park New England sled hockey tournament.
RPI Hockey shares the same enthusiasm. “We are thrilled to be working with and helping out with the Sled Warriors hockey team. This year will be a great experience for our team to share the ice with them and help them in any way we can. Most of all it will be an opportunity we all can learn from,” said Shane Sellar, a graduate student and #26 on the team. Head Coach, Dave Smith, added, “This is something our guys love, giving back to the community. The fact that it is at an arena with hockey players and people that love the game is even better. One of our team goals is to give back to the people in the community and this is a great opportunity. We are excited to partner together.”
STRIDE’s sled hockey team practices every Sunday at Albany County Hockey Facility at 830 Albany Shaker Rd in Albany. The team is open to Capital Region athletes with disabilities who are looking for a new sport. Newcomers are invited to join the team on the ice to try a sled on the first weekend of practice each month. Anyone interested can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call STRIDE’s office at (518)-598-1279.