GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Sled Wings took to the ice for the first time since 2019 Saturday!
"That's the biggest message I try to portray to people who have never seen sled hockey or adaptive sports is that it is just as competitive,” says Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Coordinator Meg Bouman. “They just need an extra piece of equipment.”
That extra piece of equipment — the sled — is designed so that anyone can play a sport they enjoy.
Twenty-two teams from across the Midwest are competing in this year's tournament, and from as far away as Nashville.
A novice team was also added so children can get into adaptive hockey without playing against people who are bigger than they are.
Playing hockey while sitting is harder than most might think, as being lower to the ground can lead to harder hits to the wall.
"Obviously when you get checked, you're not hitting the glass. It's a lot less give,” explains Charles Warren. “When you hit the boards, it's like hitting a concrete wall.”
Despite the added challenge, athletes tell FOX 17 it’s good to be back.
"Getting to play hockey is just one of my favorite things to do ever," says Daniel Joseph Williams.
For this year, the tournament expanded to two ice rinks to accommodate the number of athletes competing.