Playing sledge hockey with Todd over the past 15 years has been an experience I will never forget. Every Friday night I would head to Walkley Arena in Ottawa to play with The Prior team and the exercise was great, but spending time with Todd and sharing a drink from the “taped” water bottle are times I will not soon forget. Only this past year I have gotten away from the game, mostly because I can’t keep up with the National team guys anymore and because I am getting involved with my son’s hockey and can’t find the time.
As a result of playing sledge hockey I have had the opportunity to go to some tournaments with Todd and specifically the Chowder Cup in Boston. Here is a clip from The History of the Sledge Hockey Chowder Cup:
In 2000 the tournament was officially called the Sled Hockey Chowder Cup and 4 teams competed. The teams were the Boston Blades, the Long Island Eagles, the New England Ice Picks, & the Prior Sledgehammers from Canada. The Sledgehammers went into Boston Saturday night & partied until 3am. Sunday morning they had a Tailgate breakfast in the parking lot consisting of Budweiser and Jack Daniels. The Boston Blades thought they’d have easy pickings the way the Canadians were tossing down the booze. Alas that was not the case. The more the Canadians drank the better they played. The Sledgehammers beat the Boston Blades to win the 1st Official Sled Hockey Chowder Cup.
I am proud to say that I was part of the Prior Sledgehammers and a weekend I will not soon forget...what I can remember of the weekend anyway.
In 2001, I met Lonnie Hannah who was part of the Dallas Stars team playing in the Chowder Cup and this is a friend I have made through sledge hockey that I would not have otherwise met. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Games, Canada finished 4th but this was my first experience as a spectator at a Paralympic Games and was happy to cheer on some of the players from the USA team I had met over the years to a gold medal victory. Just one month later I was heading to Boston once again to play in the Chowder Cup, this time with the Dallas Stars as Lonnie asked us to come and play with them.
It was great to watch Canada win Gold in Turin and this is definitely my fondest memory related to Sledge Hockey and the Paralympic Games.
During the closing ceremonies Todd was nominated for the Whan Young Dai Prize which recognizes elite athletes with a disability that have demonstrated an exceptional level of determination to overcome their adversities through sport and the Paralympic Games.
A clip from an e-mail sent from Todd the day after the gold medal win:
Today is the closing ceremony and it will be the last time this year we will be together as a team, I was nominated for an award that is handed out to one athlete at the closing. I'm up against Lonnie Hannah from the USA. The award is for people who have overcome obstacles and pursued their dreams no matter what the cost. Lonnie has been dealing with cancer over the last couple of years and if I'm not chosen there isn't anyone else I would rather lose to.
Caption in paper reads: "Trade you Canadian beer for flag"Sledge hockey player Lonnie Hannah (middle of picture above), a member of the gold-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City and the bronze-medal-winning team in Turin, was the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies as well as the recipient of the Whan Young Dai Prize.
After 2006 Lonnie started a program called Operation Comfort in San Antonio which is a way for wounded soldiers recovering from injuries suffered in Iraq to bond together playing sledge hockey. Now the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver are just around the corner, but unfortunately for Lonnie he didn’t make the US Sledge Hockey Team.
The good thing is that he will still be in Vancouver and I don’t think it will take much to convert him to a supporter of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team headed for Gold. I wish I was cheering for Lonnie as part of the US team but it will be great to see him again and share the memories from previous years and the memories that will be created in Vancouver!!!