Turin, March 17 – They may not be even worth a dollar each, but members of Canada’s Sledge Hockey Team say they can’t put a price on the specially minted coins given to them by Hockey Canada.
The country’s grassroots hockey organisation has this year started giving Paralympic athletes in sledge hockey the funding and support equal to their able-bodies counterparts.
As a symbol of its support, the organisation has given every Canadian Sledge Hockey player, coach and support staff member a specially minted coin commemorating the Torinto 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. The gift is a longstanding Hockey Canada tradition, aimed at bringing Olympic team members together, regardless of whether they are near each other.
Forward Bradley Bowden said the gesture came as a surprise.
“I have been playing for a long time – 11 years – and we have never been included in something like that,” said Bowden.
“They apparently started giving the coins to players in 1998 when the guys couldn’t all be together for training camps. They would all go their separate ways but this was a symbol of their commitment to their team. And when they got together, they would all show each other the coins. I guess for us it symbolises that we are a part of Hockey Canada.”
Fellow forward Shawn Matheson said although the players were given the coins two days ago, they had already become of the team’s unity and he and his teammates are already holding them up when they see each other. He plans to add a necklace to his because he is fearful of losing it.
The 24 coins are not legal tender but players say they cannot put a price on their value.
“It’s like a Canadian loonie, but it’s worth much more than that to us,” said Matheson.
The Torino Games are Matheson’s fourth Paralympics and he said he has noticed a difference in the way the players are treated this time around. He attributes it to the support from Hockey Canada.
“Every time we turn around they are giving us something,” he said. “The staff really look after our every concern. If we have a problem, they have almost always solved before we say anything.”
Marc Dorion, also a forward, said the coins would help drive the team during Saturday’s gold medal game against Norway.
“The coins are amazing. They tie everyone together. We look at them every day because it’s a sign that we’re all in this together and we’re here to win.”