Tom Knab's son has cerebral palsy, but he still gets to work out with his high school's hockey team.
Peter, 17, has played with the Cleveland Mighty Barons — a regional sled hockey team for players who have physical disabilities — for at least eight years. And during hockey season, he hops on the ice with the team at his high school and joins them while they practice.
Knab, from Cleveland Heights, said Peter likes sled hockey because, unlike other adapted sports, the teams keep score.
"This is real rules, real games," he said.
Players from the Mighty Barons took to the ice Saturday — on National Skate Day — for a fundraiser sled hockey game against members of the University of Akron's hockey team at the Center Ice Sports Complex in Jackson Township.
The Akron players swapped out their skates and instead sat in sleds with blades on the bottom, using hockey sticks to propel themselves across the rink like the Mighty Barons team members do.
Before the game began, coaches from the Mighty Barons helped strap players from both teams into their sleds, winding duct tape around their feet to secure them.
The Cleveland team brought 13 players to Jackson Township, ranging in ages from about 10 to 26, team parent Ken Vogt said. Proceeds from the event were for the Ohio Sled Hockey organization, with which the Cleveland team is associated.
As the first period of Saturday's game wrapped up, some of the Akron players waited on the ice watching their teammates, yelling at them to speed up and get the puck back from the Barons.
Chandler Thompson, 26, of Lorain, laughed as he explained that both forms of ice hockey require core strength, but said sled hockey relies more on the upper body — it's all in the arms and chest.
The Akron players agreed they had improved since they faced off against the Barons last year and that they were getting faster.
"It's cool to come out and play the best competition," Thompson said.
Matt Willard, 22, of Amherst, said he saw the game as being beneficial for the Akron team, but also for the Mighty Barons.
"It's not just for us," he said.
After two periods of play and a shoot-out, the Barons beat the Akron team 7-2.
Mighty Baron player Keegan O'Reilly, 16, of North Canton, said the hardest part for his team's competitors was probably adapting to using the sled — primarily balancing on it and learning how to turn.
Nick Calabrese, 27, of Sheffield Lake, said he enjoys getting to play the University of Akron team because it helps the Barons brush up on their skills while spreading awareness about the sport.
Compared with the previous year, he said the Akron team "kind of knew what they were doing."
Page 2 of 2 - Vogt, whose son has been with the Mighty Barons for 11 seasons, said the years of play have helped the athletes on the Cleveland team develop incredible upper-body strength.
He smiled as he watched the Akron players out on the ice.
"They've adjusted to it a little bit more," Vogt said.
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