The sport of sledge hockey, an innovative team sport that incorporates the same rules and discipline structure as able-bodied hockey, was invented by three Swedish wheelchair athletes on a frozen lake in Stockholm in 1961.
The game was an instant success, and after only a couple years of development, five teams competed for the Stockholm city championship.
The Swedish players subsequently introduced the sport to their Norwegian neighbors and regular matches between respective national teams ensued. Norway, in turn, introduced the sport to British wheelchair athletes.
In 1979, Dick Loiselle, a former director of the 1976 Toronto Olympiad, brought back a sled from Europe, given to him by Rolf Johansson, a Paralympic gold medallist in wheelchair track and field and one of the inventors of sledge hockey.
It was given with the understanding that the Paraplegic Association of Canada would initiate a program for sledge hockey; however, the PAC declined the proposal and the opportunity was given to Jerry Johnston, executive director of the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing.
After the CADS also declined, the sled was sent to Jean Lane, Johnston’s sister-in-law. Lane made a presentation to the City of Medicine Hat, Alberta, which had allocated $42,000 for persons with disabilities in sport, but had no such programs to use the funds.
With the program presented by Lane fulfilling all necessary criteria, sledge hockey in Canada was born.
As a result of rapid growth of the sport, Sledge Hockey of Canada (SHOC) was created in 1993 and given the title of a national sport federation by the Government of Canada, to coordinate, develop and promote the sport of sledge hockey in Canada.
In 1994, sledge hockey was introduced as a demonstration sport at the Paralympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The sport has since become a full medal event at the Paralympic Winter Games. Canada has participated in sledge hockey in each Paralympic Winter Games.
In 2004, sledge hockey came under the umbrella of Hockey Canada.
- - -
1961 – A club team in Stockholm, Sweden attempts sledge hockey with smaller goals and no goalkeepers. Competition takes place on an open lake, and round poles with bike handles are used as sticks.
1967 – Sledge hockey is admitted onto a regular outdoor rink in Stockholm, Sweden.
1969 – A league of five teams is formed in Stockholm, Sweden. It includes athletes both with and without disabilities. The teams have no organized training and play only one or two games each year between 1971 and 1980.
1976 – At the first Olympic Winter Games for the Handicapped in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, an exhibition match is played between two Swedish teams. Sledge hockey coverage is shown on television for the first time.
1980 – The Alberta Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking Association is formed.
1981 – Thanks to a $26,000 federal grant, the SHIP program (Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking) is promoted in 21 Canadian cities during the International Year of the Disabled Persons. Some cities establish sledge hockey programs thanks to this promotion.
1982 – During the World Championship in Winter Sports in Les Diableretes, Switzerland, a demonstration game with athletes from Great Britain, Norway and Sweden is conducted.
1982 – During the Alberta Winter Games in Lloydminster, a demonstration of the sport is put on by the Alberta Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking Association.
1982 – A formal rules and regulations manual for sledge hockeyis adopted by the Alberta Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking Association.
1983 – A national sledge hockey tournament is held in Medicine Hat, attracting teams from Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, in addition to the tournament hosts.
1983 – Alberta Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking Association officials hold a technical clinic in Ottawa during Winterlude, with assistance from the National Capital Commission, attracting the attention of Governor-General Jean Sauve.
1984 – During the Alberta Winter Games in Crowsnest Pass, a demonstration of the sport is put on by the Alberta Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking Association.
1986 – The first world championship for sledge racing, sledge hockey, cross-country skiing and downhill sledge tobogganing is organized in Oslo, Norway. Sledge hockey competitors include Great Britain, Norway and Sweden.
1987 – Jean Lane receives an Alberta Advisory Board on Recreation for the Disabled (AABRD) Legacy Award, sponsored by the Alberta Parks and Recreation Association, in recognition of her support of sledge hockey and the Alberta Sledge Hockey and Ice Picking Association.
1991 – The first World Cup of sledge hockey is held in Oslo, Norway. For the first time in 25 years, Sweden loses a sledge hockey game, falling to Canada in the gold medal game.
1993 – The second World Cup of sledge hockey is held in Hull, Que. Canada wins its second-consecutive gold medal, defeating Norway in the gold medal game.
1994 – Sledge hockey is included in the Paralympic Winter Games program in Lillehammer, Norway, under the IPC flag. Participating countries include Canada, Estonia, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden. The Swedes win gold, Norway takes silver and Canada claims bronze.
1996 – The first sanctioned sledge hockey world championship is held in Nynäshamn, Sweden, with six teams – Canada, Estonia, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States – taking part. Sweden adds a world title to its Paralympic gold, defeating Norway in the final.
1998 – Norway wins its first-ever Paralympic gold medal, defeating Canada 2-0 in the final in Nagano, Japan. The defending champions from Sweden win bronze, falling to Canada in the semifinals.
2000 – Canada sits atop the sledge hockey world for the first time, winning the world championship with a 2-1 overtime victory over Norway in the gold medal game in Salt Lake City, Utah.
2002 – On its home ice in Salt Lake City, Utah, the United States wins its first major international title, claiming Paralympic gold with a shootout victory over Norway. The defending world champions from Canada finish off the podium, losing 2-1 in a shootout to Sweden in the bronze medal game.
2004 – Eighteen years after it was the site of the first televised sledge hockey game, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden hosts the world championship. Norway wins its first major event since the 1998 Paralympics, defeating the United States 2-1 in the final, while Canada finishes fourth for the second-straight tournament.
2006 – Canada shakes off a pair of disappointing international finishes, winning its first-ever Paralympic gold medal by blanking Norway 3-0 in the final in Turin, Italy. The Canadian defence allows just four goals in five games – all in a 4-1 preliminary-round loss to the Norwegians.
2007 – At the first World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Kelowna, B.C., Canada takes home the gold medal thanks to a 1-0 overtime win over Norway. The U.S. takes bronze, topping Germany 5-0 in the third-place game.
2008 – Canada adds a world championship to its Paralympic and World Sledge Hockey Challenge gold medals, scoring in the final 10 seconds to beat Norway 3-2 in Marlborough, Mass. Korea wins gold in the B pool, beating the Czech Republic in the final.
2008 – Canada defends its World Sledge Hockey Challenge gold medal in Charlottetown, P.E.I., routing Norway 7-0 in the final. The U.S. settles for third for the second year in a row, hammering Japan 9-0 in the bronze medal game.
2009 – The United States ends Canada’s dominance of international hockey, beating the Canadians in a shootout in the semifinals before winning their first world championship with a 1-0 victory over Norway in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Canada settles for bronze with a 2-0 win over Japan.
2009 – Once again the U.S. ends Canada’s reign, this time at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, where the Americans take gold with a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
2010 – On home ice in Vancouver, B.C., Canada suffers a 3-1 upset loss to Japan in the semifinals before falling to Norway in the bronze medal game. The United States adds Paralympic gold to its world championship and World Sledge Hockey Challenge gold medals, beating the Japanese in the final.