Ice Sledge Hockey, a history

It was generally accepted that ice hockey was a combination of English field hockey and Indian lacrosse, spread across Canada by British soldiers in the mid-1800s, until the mid-1980s when research discovered a hockeylike game, played in the early 1800s in Nova Scotia by the Mi’kmaq (Micmac) Indians. This game seemed to have been heavily influenced by the Irish game of hurling and it is now believed this is the game that spread throughout Canada. The name hockey is attributed to the French word ‘hoquet’, meaning a shepherds’ stick. Initially, as many as 30 players per side were allowed and the goals were two stones frozen into the ice. The first record of a puck replacing a ball was at a game between Crimean war veterans from the Royal Canadian Rifles, at Kingston Harbour, Ontario, Canada, in 1860. 

Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink saw the first recorded public indoor ice hockey game, between two teams of McGill University students, in 1875, with rules largely following those of field hockey. Reporting on the game, The Daily British Whig of Kingston, Ontario, said “Shins and heads were battered, benches smashed and the lady spectators fled in confusion.” The McGill University Hockey Club was formed in 1877, with codified rules and a limit of nine players per side. 

Ice hockey has been played Britain since the early 20th century, with Britain a founder member of the world governing body, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), when it was established in 1908. 

From 1935 to 1954 there were two professional leagues, the English National League and the Scottish National League. In 1954 they merged to form a British National League but that folded in 1960, the result of rising costs and declining crowds. Ice hockey’s’ popularity began to rise again in 1982 with the re-formation of the British League with teams of mainly homegrown players and a strict limit on imported professionals. The English Ice Hockey Association was formed in 1982 with around 60 teams and has grown significantly across England and Wales.

In the early 1960s at a rehabilitation centre in Sweden a group of men invented Ice Sledge hockey as a means of continuing playing the sport despite their physical impairments. They modified a sledge by adding two ice hockey skates onto it (meaning the puck could pass under the sledge) and, using round poles with bike handles attached as sticks, played the first ever match on a frozen lake near Stockholm. 

Professional ice hockey was revived in Britain with the formation of the Superleague in 1996, however, it relied heavily on overseas players and although initially the crowds increased, many clubs found it too expensive, leading to its’ collapse in 2003. The surviving Superleague teams created the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League, which still has a significant proportion of foreign players, while the English Premier League, formed in the late 1980s, has more home-grown talent.

Ice Sledge Hockey, a competitive sport

By 1967 the sport was being played on a regular outdoor rink and had spread from Sweden to their Scandinavian neighbours Norway.

Two years later in 1969 Stockholm hosted the first international match between a local team and one from Oslo. From there it spread further afield and is now played around the world. As a thrilling, fast paced and extremely physical sport it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most watched sports at the Winter Paralympics. In 2016 it was ‘rebranded’ as Para Ice Hockey.

In 1981 Great Britain established its first team and the British Sledge Hockey Association (BSHA) was formed in 1995 to further develop and act as an advocate for the sport. In line with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) name change, it is now known as GB Para Ice Hockey.

Ice Sledge Hockey, a Paralympic event

Two teams from Sweden played an exhibition match at the inaugural Winter Paralympics in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 1976 but it only became an official Paralympic sport at Lillehammer 1994 (which was incidentally the first time the Winter Paralympics and Winter Olympics were held in the same place). It has been a constant presence ever since.

Ice Sledge Hockey at the Winter Paralympic Games

  • 1994 Lillehammer, Norway - 1 events, 5 countries and 57 athletes (56 men and 1 women) participated.
  • 1998 Nagano, Japan -1 events, 7 countries and 100 athletes (All men) participated.
  • 2002 Salt Lake City, USA -1 events, 8 countries and 88 athletes (All men) participated.
  • 2006 Torino, Italy -1 events, 8 countries and 112 athletes (All men) participated.
  • 2010 Vancouver, Canada -1 events, 8 countries and 117 athletes (All men) participated.
  • 2014 Sochi, Russia -1 events, 8 countries and 128 athletes (All men) participated.

British Ice Sledge Hockey medal winners

Although Team GB has competed in 3 Winter Paralympic Games, 1994 Lillehammer, 1998 Nagano and 2006 Torino (Turin), they have yet to win any medals.

How Ice Sledge Hockey has evolved 

The basic sledge design has not fundamentally changed since the 1960s when they had basic trays for seats on top of steel tubes that were attached to two normal hockey skate blades. Over time the ability to make adjustments to fit the user’s needs has increased, seats can be tilted and the height adjusted, telescopic frames enable them accommodate different leg lengths and the width of the skate blades, which affects stability, can be adjusted to suit the athlete’s ability.

Rules of Ice Sledge Hockey

ice sledge hockey

Who can participate?

There is no classification points system for ice sledge hockey meaning that it is fully inclusive. It has very quickly become one of the most popular attractions for athletes who have an impairment of a permanent nature in the lower part of the body.

Players use an adapted sledge which is fitted with two blades so that the puck can travel beneath it. They have two playing sticks each, allowing them to push across the ice and control the puck, each stick has two ends, one a spike (for pushing) and the other a blade (for shooting), although either may be used to shoot.

Players also need to wear protective equipment including a full cage helmet/mask, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads and gloves. The goalkeeper wears additional padding as protection from flying pucks which can travel at up to 100kph.

The rules are, on the whole, the same as for ice hockey (only allowing for some modifications because of the difference in equipment). Therefore, the aim of the game is to score more goals than the opposition and to try and stop them scoring.

There are three, 15 minute, periods. Six players (out of a possible 15) from each team are on the ice at any one time (usually 3 forwards, 2 in defence and a goalkeeper). There is also overtime and shootouts to determine a winner.

Governing bodies

The sport is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) through the World Para Ice Hockey Technical Committee. 

The British Para Ice Hockey Association (BPIHA) is the National Governing Body of Para Ice Hockey in the UK.

Regional clubs

The BPA have created an online directory, Parasport, where you can search for and find out about sport and physical activity in your area.

The sport is currently played at -
Peterborough Ice Arena
iceSheffield
Ice Arena Wales (IAW)
Silverblades Widnes
Hull Ice Arena

If you are interested in taking part or going to watch a training session or game, contact details for the clubs can be found here.

References

Worden-Rogers, “Effect of sledge hockey configuration on sledge hockey performance,” M.Sc., The University of Western Ontario, Waterloo, ON, 2012
https://paralympics.org.uk/sports/para-ice-hockey 
http://www.britishsledgehockey.co.uk/ 
https://www.paralympic.org/ice-hockey 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/42762618 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45748973 (Huskies claim the title in October 2018)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJPPsrYYbo8 (video of BBC Look North visiting the Sheffield Steelkings before their maiden season, from 2015)
https://www.britannica.com/sports/ice-hockey
https://www.icehockeyuk.co.uk/about-ice-hockey/

British Ice Sledge Hockey League

The Peterborough Phantoms

The Peterborough Phantoms were established in 2011, due to a major push by Planet Ice and the British Sledge Hockey Association, to breathe new life into the game within the UK. Prior to 2011, the game was on the decline, with only 1 club remaining that could play at a competitive level. This all changed in 2011, when along with the Basingstoke Bisons, we joined the league.

Each year since, new clubs have come and gone but the league has continued to move forward, and now more players are coming into the sport. The league now boasts a total of 5 clubs that include the; Manchester Mayhem, Cardiff Huskies, Kingston Kestrels, Sheffield Steelkings and the Peterborough Phantoms.

In 2011, we won our first trophy, the Play Off finals against the established team, Kingston Kestrels. It took another 2 years for our club to gain experience and in 2013 we won the first Planet Ice League Championship. We followed this up in 2014 with the League and Play Off double, and in 2015 we successfully retained the League Championship for a third time. 2016 saw us win our 4th League Championship in 4 years, along with our 3rd Play-Off Tournament trophy.

The club started with only a small handful of players, and the majority are still with us today, along with an ever-expanding squad that is growing every season. We are proud to provide a fully inclusive experience for those new or experienced to the game.

We have helped to develop players, who have represented Great Britain at World Championships and Paralympic Qualification tournaments.

Current GB players who play for the Peterborough Phantoms are; Matt Coleman (Forward), Darren Brown (Defence), Robin Gaze (Goal) and Scotty Turner (Defender).

Read Peterborough Phantom player Naomi Adie's story here

Matt and Namoi from the Peterborough Phantoms Sledge Hockey Club on the Ice Photo of the Peterborough Phantoms Para Sledge Hockey Club Dave from The Peterborough Phantoms Sledge Hockey Club on the ice