Sledge Hockey Fun

Eight-year-old Matthew Demy spent a sunny Wednesday afternoon playing shinny with his idols.

Matthew’s been playing sledge hockey since last fall and says he really enjoys it.

“Yeah, it’s really fun,” Matthew said. “I just play any position. But I really like centre.”

Matthew and nine other members of the Toronto sledge hockey program joined Mayor David Miller and three Canadian Paralympic team members in a sledge hockey game to celebrate the kickoff of the Sledge Hockey in the Neighbourhood program held at Nathan Phillips Square Feb. 21.

Canadian sledge hockey players Paul Rosen, Bradley Bowden and Billy Bridges wowed spectators and participants with their skill, showing David Miller a thing or two about the other hockey game on ice. After the game Bridge showcased his one-handed 80 miles-per-hour slapshot on Rosen, who brought his gold medal he won in Italy last year at the 2006 Paralympic Games for star-struck Matthew and others to see.

Matthew, a Grade 3 student attending St. John’s Vianney Elementary School, came from Barrie with his grandparents to take part in the festivities. Asked if he hopes to play for Canada someday, Matthew blushed and nodded his head.

“Yeah that would be nice,” he said.

David Hains, supervisor of community recreation for Toronto, also played in the game. He said the whole experience is hard to put into words.

“To be involved in this program and to be able to play hockey with these guys is amazing for myself and the kids,” he said.

The sledge hockey program is open to sledge hockey hopefuls of all ages, but priority registration goes to people with physical disabilities.

“I mean what other sport can you come together and play with all the members of your family,” Hains said.

Before the game organizers announced that the Bell Community Sport fund had awarded $25,000 to the program to accompany the $35,000 Toronto Parks and Recreation has already committed for 2007 and 2008.

“This kind of money really helps us out,” Hains said. “And having guys like Rosen here is so inspirational for kids like Matthew.”