SYRACUSE N.Y. (NCC News)— Aaron Landers started working at Tennity Ice Pavilion on Syracuse University’s campus earlier this year. Landers also volunteers with the CNY Flyers sled hockey team in Skaneateles. After his first practice with the team, he said he was hooked. His passion for the sport inspired him to create a sled hockey program at Tennity.
“When I started up, it kind of just seemed like a no brainer,” he said. “[Sled hockey was] one other ice sport that we could get in here.”
Sled hockey and stand up hockey are similar, with players following many of the same rules. The biggest difference is the equipment. Rather than having blades on participants’ feet, blades sit on the bottom of a sled. In addition, players have two sticks instead of one. Each stick has a hockey blade on one end and picks on the other.
Sled hockey programs have popped up around the country. Norm Page, the sled hockey representative for USA Hockey, has played a large role in its growth.
“It’s growing all over the country and it’s really in every corner in the U.S. now,” Page said.
The program at Tennity is still in the growth phase. With a new program, comes many challenges.
“We don’t want to get too big too fast but we also don’t want to be so small that we can’t accommodate all the people who want to participate,” Landers said.
In addition to a lack of funding, securing enough equipment and ice time can be difficult. Stand up hockey teams, figure skating programs and intramural sports fill up much of the schedule. When ice time is available, the rink has a limited number of sleds.
Despite the challenges, Marty Sicilia, a sled hockey coach at Tennity, looks forward to the future of the program.
“Just to build this program is really exciting,” he said. I’d love to see it get to the point where we have a club team or intramural.”