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Did you know that there is a sport that can be even faster than hockey, with hits even harder, and that has disappearing dangling pucks? I present you with sled hockey!

Sled hockey is a very fun sport, in which athletes sit in special sleds to skate on an ice rink and play hockey. The athletes play using the same rules, the same penalties, the same puck, and the same nets as “stand up” hockey. They play 5-on-5 with a goalie and the only difference is the equipment.

The sled is like a big skate that the athletes are strapped to with two long blades on the bottom. Sleds are very expensive. A cheap sled costs around $700-$800, which is more than “stand up” hockey equipment. Better sleds are thousands of dollars.

Each athlete plays with two short hockey sticks that have metal picks at the top so that they can push themselves to go fast on the ice during a game. They can skate up to 30 miles per hour, which is faster than the average hockey player who skates between 10-25 miles per hour. The average sled hockey player would win a race against the average “stand up” player on ice.

Sled hockey athletes have a stickhandling advantage because they play with two sticks. The sled hockey players use the two sticks to dangle the puck while skating. They can even slide the puck under their sled where it disappears. They shoot the puck up to 70 mph. Goalie saves and game winning cellys are epic on a sled.

The hits are also epic. The only checking rule is that players cannot “t-bone” an opponent. The players skate fast and hockey is a full contact sport, so the checks are steel-on-steel slams. Fans in the stands can hear a thrilling thunderclap from a good hit.

Sled hockey was born in the 1960s in Sweden, and was designed for disabled athletes who want to play one of the fastest sports on ice. It has since been played in many countries like Canada, Czechia, Korea, China, Germany, Italy, Norway, and the United States. These countries compete in the International Para Hockey Cup, the World Para Ice Hockey Championship, and the Paralympic Games (“para” stands for “parallel” Olympics).

There are about fifty adult and junior sled hockey teams in the United States. There are several sled hockey leagues in which junior and adult teams play each other in a regular season, like the Northeast Sled Hockey League (NESHL), which has twenty teams in and near New England. There are also national tournaments where teams come from all over the country to compete.

I spoke with Boston ICE Storm player Gavin Ford and his father and coach, Tom Ford, on the opening day of their season. The ICE Storm was hosting the entire NESHL at their home rink, Gallant Arena, at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. The ICE Storm had just played against their fellow Bostonians, and rivals, the Spaulding Shamrocks, in what was a rematch of their semifinals game in last year's nationals, in St. Louis, Missouri. “This was personal,” Coach Ford said. The ICE Storm had just won a thrilling victory against the Spaulding Shamrocks in a 4-3 shootout win!

Gavin had two of the team’s goals and said that it felt great to beat their biggest rivals. He was humble, but told me his favorite celly is “The Silencer” where he puts his finger to his lips and says, “Shhhh” to silence the opposition.

I also spoke with Mike Civarro, who is the President and Commissioner of the NESHL. Mike explained that the mission of the NESHL is to provide an environment where individuals “can develop as athletes, leaders, and community members through a competitive sled hockey league that emphasizes commitment, discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship.” Based on what I saw, the NESHL athletes live up to all that and more!

For anyone who wants to play or support sled hockey, check out the NESHL website. It also has good information about the commitment, discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, and fun that sled hockey is all about.