The Dakota Spirit Arena was a buzz with activity on Sunday, April 2, as it hosted the first ever sled hockey clinic in association with the Society for Manitobans With Disabilities.
By Melissa Anderson
The clinic was made possible following the successful fundraiser for Tucker Olson to have his own hockey sled. The fundraiser was extremely successful raising over $13,000 allowing for the purchase of six sleds.
“The sled hockey event was held at the Dakota Spirit Arena to follow-up on the progress made after the sled hockey benefit and to raise awareness that the arena has the ability to accommodate anyone who would like to try hockey, whether it be on skates or by sled,” Tonia Olson, Tucker’s mother, said, ”The arena is equipped with six sleds, an elevator to access the upper level, and is installing ramps to make the ice accessible to all.”
Olson explained that these sleds will provide “freedom” for the kids and adults with disabilities. These sleds are not limited to just those with disabilities as they also allow a new and fun way to get the exercise needed for healthy bodies and healthy minds.
“Sled hockey is open to anyone and everyone, no disability needed, “ Olson stated.
While the clinic had a modest turnout, Olson and other organizers expect the attendance to grow as others learn about sled hockey with increasing popularity through word of mouth and interest. The organizers have already heard from several people who know of others that would benefit from the sport of sled hockey and would like to try the sleds next time a clinic is hosted.
“I hope everybody who came to our sled hockey “camp” had lots of fun and will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and on and on…so the next time we have sled hockey at our arena, we will run out of sleds! Wouldn’t that be funny,” Tucker Olson shared.
Those that attended the recent clinic were given the introductory course on how sled hockey works by coach Bill Muloin of the “Sledgehammers”, a Canadian sled hockey team. Muloin is a member of The Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD), their mission being, “A community that supports the independence, participation, and empowerment of persons of all disabilities”. Muloin taught the participants sled hockey techniques such as puck handling, how to turn, and moving backwards. He also taught clinic attendees how to get up when the sled tips over.
“Coach Bill came down from Manitoba to share his “sledge hockey” skills and knowledge. I thought that “sledge” was a typo, but Bill informed us, the Canadians call our sled hockey, sledge hockey,” Olson explained.
Members of the Sledgehammers had a special surprise for Tucker as they presented him with his very own Sledgehammers jersey. The team also made Tucker an honorary member of the Manitoba sled hockey team. Tucker is also a member of a Minot sled hockey team called the Prairie Grit.
“It makes me feel happy and strong, and I want to be a real “Sledgehammer”! I can be on two teams right?” Tucker stated.
If you missed this clinic but are interested, Olson and the Dakota Spirit Arena invite you to come try the sleds when you have time. Olson notes that she herself cannot skate but being able to be out on the ice with her family, friends, and new acquaintances, was extremely enjoyable.
“I could hardly stop laughing long enough to listen to the directions coach Bill and Tucker were trying to give us,” Olson said.
For Tucker, to have the clinic in his hometown made him very happy as it allowed him to make new friends from Canada who also enjoy the sport. Just like any good hockey player, his competitive streak was also ignited as he cannot wait to have a friendly game on his home ice.
“I want to invite all the teams to come play sled hockey here with me if they have time,” Tucker said.
For the Olson family, having sled hockey clinics in the future is important to them as a means of keeping the community and surrounding area in the know that Dakota Spirit Arena offers an alternative for those who cannot skate but love the sport of hockey. The sleds are available to anyone who would like to try the sleds on the ice. Be sure to head out to the Dakota Spirit Arena and try out this fun activity while also getting in, as Olson shared, a great workout.