OTTAWA, ONTARIO – Hockey Canada introduced a third Olympic hockey team at a Canadian Paralympic Committee press conference on Monday, Canada’s Men’s Paralympic Sledge Hockey Team, three days prior to the team’s departure for the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Turin, from March 10-20, 2006.
Sledge hockey is the Paralympic version of hockey and, since its debut on the Paralympic program at the 1994 Lillehammer Paralympic Winter Games, it is quickly becoming one of the biggest attractions for spectators at the Paralympic Winter Games. It is fast-paced, highly physical and played by male athletes with a physical disability in the lower part of the body.
“The players and staff have been working very hard to prepare to represent Canada successfully at the Paralympics in Turin,” said Head Coach Jeff Snyder. “We are looking forward to a great competition and feel that we are ready to challenge for a gold medal.”
“On behalf of Hockey Canada, I’d like to extend my best wishes to all the members of Canada’s Sledge Hockey Team,“ said Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson. “Their devotion and commitment to this very challenging and exciting sport is fantastic, and I look forward to watching them take on the World in Turin.”
Canada has nine returning players from the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games, where Canada finished 4th: goaltender Paul Rosen (Thornhill, ON), defencemen Jean Labonté (Aylmer, QC) and Graeme Murray (Gravenhurst, ON), and forwards Bradley Bowden (Orton, ON), Billy Bridges (Guelph, ON), Hervé Lord (Ottawa, ON), Shawn Matheson (Clarence Creek, ON), Todd Nicholson (Ottawa, ON) and Dany Verner (Bois-des-Filion, QC).
Todd Nicholson will be the team’s captain. Nicholson has been a member of the National Team since 1992 and has played in all three previous sledge hockey events at the Paralympic Winter Games (1994, 1998, 2002).
Since Canada’s arrival on the international sledge hockey scene, the National Men’s Sledge Hockey Team has captured gold in four major international events (the 19 World Cups, the 1999 Commemorative Games and the 2000 World Championship). In the nine major events held in Sledge Hockey over the past 15 years, Canada has won a medal in all but two.
Sledge Hockey has been part of the Paralympic Winter Games since 1994. Canada won a bronze medal in 1994, a silver medal in 1998, and finished 4th in 2002.
Over the course of the 2005-06 season, Canada’s Sledge Hockey Team captured the German Invitation Tournament in December, and compiled a 8-3-0 record over the season, outscoring its opponents 28-13.
The players and staff on Canada’s Paralympic Sledge Hockey Team leave for Turin on March 4th, departing from Montreal on Air France Flight 345, departing at 5:35 pm. Canada plays its first game on March 11th, against Great Britain at 9:30 am (Local time)/ 3:30 am (ET). The gold and bronze medal games are on March 18th.