JACKSON TWP. The Center Ice Sports Complex played host to an exciting exhibition sled hockey game Saturday. The event started with the two competing teams, ASPO Wildcats and the Stark County Veterans and Celebrities, warming up on the ice.
The ASPO Wildcats team members were part of the Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio (ASPO). It’s a non-profit organization that promotes the health and wellness of individuals with physical disabilities through competitive and recreational adaptive sport opportunities such as sled hockey.
Close to half of the 12 team members of the Veterans and Celebrities team were veterans and/or connected with agencies that offer veterans service. A few of the celebrities scheduled for the event included Representative Christina Hagan, Director of Canton Parks Derek Gordon, founder of the Patriot Project Timothy Novelli and North Canton Mayor David J. Held.
The event was meant to highlight adoptive sports opportunities for injured veterans and service members. Spectators could try their skills at sled hockey after the game ended.
The Center Ice Foundation and Mission BBQ sponsored the event. The foundation provided the ice time and facilities and staff while Mission BBQ catered the event.
"We wanted to host an event where it would encourage veterans to get out and try something new and to see what the veterans already on the Wildcat team can do on the ice," said Tom Schervish, president and CEO of Center Ice. "The ASPO Wildcats practice here weekly and play their games here."
Sled hockey makes hockey accessible for individuals with physical disabilities by utilizing a sled with blades on the bottom. The sleds are made out of a bucket that the user sits in and a frame supporting the user’s legs.
Each player uses two modified hockey sticks to push the sled around on the ice. The rules are similar to stand-up hockey and is open to both males and females with physical disabilities including spinal cord injuries, amputees, etc.
"We’ve had a sled hockey team since 2011 and play teams from all over Ohio and other states, there are eight teams in Ohio three of which are under ASPO," said ASPO Director Lisa Falloway. "We are always looking for new players. Team members can be male or female and ages six years old and older."
There were also several organizations with tables offering information to the veterans and their families about a variety of services in the area. A MAPS Museum helicopter was parked outside for family members and players to tour.