World sledge hockey challenge returns to P.E.I.
Team Canada sledge hockey team members kick off the Parasport Festival on Thursday at MacLauchlan Arena in Charlottetown
CHARLOTTETOWN - Billy Bridges hasn’t let go of the gold medal match versus the United States in last year’s world sledge hockey challenge.
Team Canada lost 5-2 mainly because of an American threegoal outburst to start the second period that gave it enough of a gap Canada couldn’t overcome.
“I really still believe we lost because of three minutes of undisciplined hockey,” said Bridges, who along with Team Canada linemate Liam Hickey were in Charlottetown to kickoff the Parasport Festival on Thursday at MacLauchlan Arena and be the faces of the world sledge hockey challenge Dec. 3-9 in the city.
But Bridges, a Summerside native and long-time Team Canada member, understands that loss helped drive the team to a gold medal after beating the Americans 4-1 at the 2017 IPC world para hockey championship in April in South Korea. “It shows how far we’ve come since. I’m on a line with Liam and Dan Delaney and it’s one of the deadliest lines I’ve ever seen.”
Bridges might be on to something as he notched six goals and 16 points at the worlds, while Hickey had seven goals and 16 points and netted the eventual game-winning goal in the title game.
Challenge-wise, the States is back this year and is joined by Korea and Italy. Things kickoff Sunday. Dec. 3, when the United States plays Korea and the Canucks tangle with Italy.
It’s the fourth time the city has hosted the event. It did so last year and 2008 and 2009.
For Hickey, a St. John’s, N.L., the challenge can be a continuation of what happened in Korea because he said this team has its mojo back.
“We got our confidence back in Korea. We were down a little after the challenge last year. We saw what we could do as a team,” said Hickey, who played for P.E.I.’s wheelchair basketball team at the 2015 Canada Games. “We focus on speed. Our physicality comes out of that.”
Hickey, who was born without a femur in his right leg, was a rookie at last year’s challenge. But he’s no stranger to international competition as represented Canada in wheelchair basketball at the Parapan American Games in Toronto in 2015 and the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Bridges, who has spina bifida and has skated with Team Canada since 2004, said the time spent in Korea without the distraction of friends or family helped galvanize this squad as it looks toward the world challenge.
“Everything about Korea brought us together as a team. We were there 22 days and there was no where else to go. We were together all the time,” he said.
Bridges and Hickey held a sledge hockey demo session on Thursday as part of the festival.
A full event ticket package, which includes six preliminary round games, both semifinals and the medal games is $50. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, Nov. 1 at MacLauchlan. Preliminary round and medal round tickets will be available on site Dec. 3.
Liam Hickey, left, and Summerside native Billy Bridges were in Charlottetown Thursday to help kick off the Parasport Festival in the city. The Canadian national sledge hockey team members also helped launch the 2017 world sledge hockey challenge Dec. 3-9 at MacLauchlan Arena where Canada will try to win gold for the sixth time.