By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Over the past two decades, the Durham Steelhawks has become one of the leading sledge hockey programs in Ontario.
Founded in 1997, the Steelhawks began as a recreational team, playing out of Iroquois Park Sports Centre, where they remain to this day.
“We’ve been around for 20 years and were originally called the Whitby Steelhawks,” says team general manager James Titmarsh.
The name change came in 2006 to better reflect the team’s reach, as they attract players from all over Durham Region.
“It’s helped to increase funding, exposure and even bringing in players,” Titmarsh states.
In 2004, the Steelhawks joined the Ontario Sledge Hockey Association, which was formed in 2004.
Since joining the association, the team has seen considerable success.
“We’ve won a few of our league championships, and taken home silver and gold medals from some recreational tournaments,” Titmarsh says.
The Steelhawks feature a junior team, for ages eight to 14 and intermediate, 14 years and above.
The two teams play 10 games during the season and in two major tournaments in London and Brampton.
Although many participants in sledge hockey have a form of disability, Titmarsh says due to the relatively small size of their program they have no restrictions.
“We are open to all abilities, even able bodies,” he explained, with teams having both male and female players.
Invented in Sweden in the 1960s and arriving in Canada in 1993, sledge hockey is played on a sled-like appliance with two blades on the bottom which allows players to move along the ice.
Two sticks are used to pass, stick handle and shoot the puck but also to propel and manoeuvre their sleds.
The rules on the ice are adopted from hockey and the sport is full-contact.
For Titmarsh, sledge hockey is a sport that can “open doors” for its players.
“One of our recent recruits, he had an injury and was told he was never able to play again,” he says. “It’s been the greatest feeling for him because he is still able to play just in a different way.”
Although the season has already started for the junior team, Titmarsh says interested players can still try out the sport.
“We are open from September to April and we are always looking for people to come out.”
There are several avenues of registration. Guests can come out and pay $10 to try the sport on a one-time basis or pay a recreational fee of $100 to practice throughout the season.
For those who are ready to hit the ice, the fee for the season is $375, which includes a sled and two sticks.
Those interested can visit the Iroquois Park Sports Centre in Whitby on Sundays between noon and 2 p.m. or contact Titmarsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-391-2326.