Sled hockey players take the ice

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— On Saturday, sled hockey takes center stage at the Howelsen Ice Arena when the Denver-based Paralyzed Veterans of America Avalanche team enters the rink at 9 p.m.
The Avalanche, who will bring at least eight of its team members, will put on a clinic that is free and open to the public. If time permits, the Avalanche will scrimmage with the Steamboat Springs Natives.
The event is scheduled to last for about two hours.
John Steele, who plays for the Natives, said the clinic was an opportunity for those unfamiliar with sled hockey to try out the sport.
Sled hockey, or sledge hockey, originated in Canada and was adopted in Colorado several years ago. It is played mainly by people who have lower extremity disabilities.
But in the United States, a sled hockey team can have as many as three able-bodied individuals on its roster.
The Natives, who currently have four members on their team, are just one of two squads in Colorado. The Avalanche is the other team.
"It can get quite rough," said Steele, who has been involved with the sport for the past several years. "It's not quite as fast as regular hockey, but there's still checking. It's kind of exciting."
Members of the Natives include Craig Kennedy, Jeremy Robertson, Ryan Baker and Steele.
Haley Miller, who coaches the Denver team, said the clinic offers people a chance to get out on the ice and skate around in hockey sleds.
Sled hockey rules and regulations are about the same as they are in regular hockey. The only major difference is that in sled hockey players use additional equipment. The player is seated on a sled, which is affixed to two skate blades under the seat.
Two short sticks are used, which have metal picks on the butt ends of them to help the players propel themselves or shoot or pass the puck. Players use their arms to propel themselves by digging the picks into the ice and pulling themselves forward.
Miller, whose team competes in hockey sled tournaments in other states, said Saturday's event was an opportune time for players to compete against friends and family.
Steele said he was thankful for the private donations he received that helped his teammates purchase the necessary hockey equipment.
Sled hockey is a must try for anyone, Miller said.
"It's fun, it's exciting," Miller said. "It's a great workout, and anyone who likes hockey will fall in love with sled hockey."
For more information, contact Miller at (970) 726-6967.

To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail erineer@amigo.net

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