TORONTO – For Olympic athletes, sport is life, and for the 18 men who represent Canada on the world stage in sledge hockey, being a physically disabled athlete is no different. In their version of the full-contact sport, the players battle their opponents with bone-breaking intensity, gliding along the ice in titanium sleds, striving to score points with passionate fervor. On the heels of the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Paralympics – and with the torch being passed to Vancouver in 2010 – the new CTV Original Documentary, Sledhead: Canada’s Sledge Hockey Team premieres Saturday, October 4 at 7 p.m. EDT (visit ctv.ca for local listings).
Sledhead is a story about Canada’s National Sledge Team, who is set to defend its gold medal after winning it all at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino. The story, like the men who play the sport, is hard-hitting and dramatic, offering an up-close, gritty look at a competitive season, and the personal stories of the athletes who are determined to win at all costs.
With the 2008 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship in Boston on the horizon, B.C. filmmakers David McIlvride and Alison Love tail Canada’s National Sledge Team throughout the 2007-08 season, uncovering the rivalries among players and teams that builds to an exciting climax in Canada’s final game against longtime rival Norway. As the players’ fate and place in the history books comes down to mere seconds on the ice, the ongoing drama of the players’ day-to-day personal lives is revealed.
The players are as different as the disabilities that brought them together as a team. Each man, whether born with a disability, or come to it by accident, has learned to live through adversity. They joke amongst themselves about separating the “amps” and the “wheelies” into separate dressing rooms. But one thing is certain: the men have bonded into a unique and sometimes dysfunctional family with a single purpose – to be world champions in their sport.
Paul’s story began as a 15-year-old boy with dreams of playing in the NHL. He was a good hockey prospect until two life-changing falls on the ice, a ravaging infection and near death experience left him without a leg. “Best day of my life,” he says. “I lost my leg, but started a whole new life playing the best game in the world, representing my country in the Olympics.”
Twenty-two-year-old Greg is the team’s most valuable player, but his personal life is a shamble, “I lay awake and think about things like … I’ve been out on four dates with this girl and she still has no clue that I don’t have feet … I should really tell her.” Born with twisted feet, his parents made the decision to amputate them when he was an infant rather than have him use a walker for the rest of his life. In a dramatic turn of events, Greg – who is being groomed to be a leader – is suspended from the team just weeks into the season. Suspended for a year from a team who desperately needs him, his case gets turned around and his suspension is reduced allowing him to play – a decision that will have a dramatic impact on the team’s fortunes at the world championship.
In addition to smashing each other on the ice, these men smash every stereotype about a disabled person. With fierce rivalry and unforgettable characters set amidst the hockey arena as a background, Sledhead is a documentary about a remarkable team of athletes, and even more remarkable men.
Sledhead is written and directed by David McIlvride and Alison Love, and is produced by Gabriel Films North Inc. in association with CTV Inc.