The power of in­clu­sion and a love for hockey

Pro­gram pro­vides para ice hockey lo­cally

The Casket - - Local - RICHARD MACKENZIE richard­[email protected]­cas­

Sledge hockey – now of­fi­cially known as para ice hockey — is a ver­sion of Canada’s sport which opens it up to per­son with dis­abil­i­ties. How­ever, in smaller, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, it’s a ver­sion not of­ten avail­able since the num­ber of prospec­tive par­tic­i­pants sim­ply doesn’t cre­ate enough of a de­mand for a pro­gram and the re­sources it would re­quire. The answer — ‘in­clu­sion.’

“This sea­son, a col­lab­o­ra­tive part­ner­ship be­tween Antigo­nish Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion (AMHA), St. F.X. hu­man ki­net­ics and X-men hockey has helped fos­ter in­clu­sive phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity for chil­dren with and with­out dis­abil­ity, through the sport of sledge hockey,” a state­ment from or­ga­niz­ers of Bull­dog sledge hockey pro­gram, read.

“For the past six weeks, Bull­dog team­mates, at the novice, atom and pee wee lev­els, have shared their pas­sion to grow the game with chil­dren with var­i­ous dis­abil­i­ties, dur­ing weekly sledge hockey prac­tices and games. Bull­dog play­ers, with and with­out dis­abil­ity, have re­alised they share much in com­mon; es­pe­cially com­mit­ment, ef­fort and a de­sire to score goals or just get­ting back up.

“All play­ers have dis­cov­ered, quickly, that sledge hockey is a tough sport re­quir­ing hard work, strength and skill. Whether prac­tic­ing turns, scor­ing goals or com­plet­ing full-ice drills, it has been re­fresh­ing to see an all-round growth in terms of a sense of com­mu­nity and ac­cep­tance.”

Fourth-year hu­man ki­net­ics stu­dent Brent Ash­field has been one of the lead­ers run­ning the pro­gram and is cre­at­ing a video which will be shared through­out Canada to try and pro­mote the pro­gram to other com­mu­ni­ties and mi­nor hockey as­so­ci­a­tions. Ash­field said it’s about putting “the­ory into prac­tice.”

“We’re do­ing ev­i­dence based prac­tice,” Ash­field said.

“We’re look­ing at tak­ing re­search that has been done in the past and ap­ply­ing it to our pro­gram. We’ve been do­ing, sort of, an innovative pro­gram for ru­ral sledge hockey; ba­si­cally, if it can be ap­plied in a ru­ral set­ting, it could be ap­plied in any as­so­ci­a­tion across Canada — ur­ban or ru­ral.

“How do we bring up the skill level of in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties in a ru­ral set­ting? We’re do­ing that through in­clu­sion.”

He de­scribed ‘in­clu­sion’ as a “team sport.”

“It only re­ally works if ev­ery­one is pulling in the same di­rec­tion,” he said. “We’ve been lucky here in Antigo­nish with the com­mu­nity sup­port, the fam­i­lies, the coaches with the Bull­dogs, and the fans.”

Classmate Gio­vanni Ake­son, a player with the Antigo­nish Farm­ers Mu­tual Ju­nior Bull­dogs the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons, talked about the weekly schedule for the in­clu­sion pro­gram.

“A prac­tice once a week, ev­ery Thurs­day, and we’ve im­ple­mented sledge hockey games into the mi­nor hockey as­so­ci­a­tion,” Ake­son said.

“The hockey games are ev­ery Sun­day, right af­ter the house league mi­nor hockey games. The kids who play in the house league games would also be play­ing in the sledge league games, right af­ter the house league games. It’s two teams ev­ery week, so the last two teams who played in the house league game are stay­ing.”

Ash­field noted there is a skill ses­sion on Thurs­day as well.

“An in­clu­sive prac­tice where we have the reg­u­lar mi­nor hockey as­so­ci­a­tion play­ers do­ing their drills on skates and then we’re adapt­ing with a few of us in the sleds,” he said.

Ake­son said they’re work­ing with lo­cal coaches to adapt drills used for play­ers on skates, to ones for play­ers in sleds.

Asked about the class they share, which pro­vided the ba­sis for their work with the pro­gram, Ash­field said it’s about “de­sign think­ing.”

“A lot of time there are is­sues with putting the­ory into prac­tice, there is a gap there,” he said.

“We have these kids in Antigo­nish who have a need; they need phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity but there is no pro­gram for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties; no pro­gram for peo­ple to en­gage in – that’s the gap.

“We’ve de­signed this pop­u­la­tion in­ter­ven­tion which has re­ally never been done be­fore, and we have de­signed it specif­i­cally for Antigo­nish. Through this, we’ll have our video ab­stract we’re do­ing. It will be com­ing out soon and with that, hope­fully it ex­pands across Canada.

“Specif­i­cally in our class we’re writ­ing, ba­si­cally, a re­search pa­per; this is what we did, this is how it worked, and then, hope­fully, it will be adopted by other com­mu­ni­ties, other mi­nor hockey as­so­ci­a­tions.”

Ake­son cred­ited Ash­field with be­ing the leader on the pro­ject.

“He has led our group on it,” he said. “I’m happy to work with him and learn through him; I’ve worked hard at it be­cause I’ve

Dur­ing the X-men’s Nov. 23 game ver­sus the Dal­housie Tigers, the pro­gram was rec­og­nized with sledge hockey play­ers Danielle Pel­ler­ine and James Macmillan tak­ing on the role of flag bear­ers dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­monies, as well as team­mate Daniel Bond serv­ing as the X-men’s ‘7th player.’

There was a demon­stra­tion of a para ice hockey game dur­ing the first in­ter­mis­sion and dur­ing the sec­ond in­ter­mis­sion, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Bon­vie-macdonald Rinks to Links pre­sented Daniel with a com­mit to pur­chase, for him, a per­son­al­ized sled.

Words of grat­i­tude were also ex­pressed at the time to­wards; AMHA, X-men hockey, the Ju­nior Bull­dogs, Goodlife Kids Foun­da­tion, Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the County of Antigo­nish recre­ation depart­ment and Hockey Nova Sco­tia’s ‘Grow the Game’ grant for money go­ing to­wards sleds, other equip­ment and ice time.

Richard Mackenzie

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the Bull­dog sledge hockey pro­gram and Bon­vie-macdonald Rinks to Links came to­gether for a photo as Rinks to Links pre­sented sledge hockey player Daniel Bond with a com­mit­ment to pur­chase for him a per­son­al­ized sled de­signed for “the more com­pet­i­tive player who is ready to reach the next stage of their devel­op­ment.” Pic­tured is; Gio­vanni Ake­son (stand­ing, left), Liam Saxon, Abby Macin­nis, Brent Ash­field, Chris Dunlap (kneel­ing, left), Denise Hart and Nicole Mann, and, out front, eight-year-old Daniel. In the background in the stands are Antigo­nish Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion novice play­ers who play hockey with Daniel as part of the pro­gram.

Richard Mackenzie

A demon­stra­tion of a Bull­dog sledge hockey pro­gram game dur­ing the first in­ter­mis­sion of the Nov. 23 AUS game at the Keat­ing Cen­tre be­tween the home town St. F.X. X-men and Dal­housie Tigers.

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