I’m buckled in and ready to go. This is my first time trying sledge hockey and I’m confident – some might say cocky – about how I’m about to do.
So I take a couple strides along the ice and, out of nowhere, national team players Hervé Lord and Benoît St-Amand come at either side of me. They crash into me and I end up on my side, unable to get up. Lord and St-Amand are killing themselves with laughter.
“Hey, guys, a little help here?”
Welcome to sledge hockey.
No doubt, dozens of people in Charlottetown had stories to tell just like that one on Friday at the CARI Complex. Hockey Canada, as it does several times each sledge hockey season, brought out 12 sleds and welcomed children and adults to give the sport a try.
Fans in Charlottetown have been enjoying the 2008 World Sledge Hockey Challenge all week. Friday was their chance to experience just how hard it is to a) get going on a sled, b) maintain your balance, and, c) control the puck and take a shot.
It was also a chance for fans to get up close and personal with the best sledge players in the world. Raymond Grassi and Jean Labonté spent most of their time taking toddlers out for a glide along the ice. Others, like Matthew Cook, offered some advice to the first-timers.
And then there was Billy Bridges. The Summerside, PEI native took the opportunity to strike a bit of fear in the first-time sledge players. Bridges, a true character on this team, fired pucks at some people. He also sped towards them, pivoted at the last moment before collision, and sprayed snow in their direction. He did all of this, of course, with a giant smile.
After 20 minutes on the ice, I was bagged. And now I’m sitting here with a hurt hip and somewhat of a bruised ego.
But what a great experience it was.