Hockey Nova Scotia hosts 1st-ever local sledge-hockey tourney

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Hockey Nova Scotia hosts 1st-ever local sledge-hockey tourney

Hockey Nova Scotia is hosting its first local sledge hockey tournament, a sign of how much the program has grown since it started seven years ago.

Three teams from Nova Scotia and a team from P.E.I. are taking part in the The East Coast Sledge Hockey Challenge in Bedford, N.S.

"It's our first attempt at an actual tournament for these athletes who've been, for the last seven years, practising and playing and playing scrimmage games, and we're at a level now where competition is a big part of it, and we're seeing that out there today," Darren Cossar, executive director of Hockey Nova Scotia, said at the BMO Centre. "We're very impressed."

Cossar said there are about 100 sledge hockey participants in the province, with programs in Cape Breton, the South Shore, Halifax and the Annapolis Valley. 

National championships

There are now enough players to send a team to the national championships next month in Quebec, Cossar said.

He said the biggest reason for the growth is awareness about the sport and how it's open to able-bodied people as well as players with disabilities.

Cossar said Hockey Nova Scotia's goal is to get one player in each of the 200 sleds they have.

Coach Steve Deveaux and his son Kurtis of the Cape Breton Sledgehammers said their team includes players from 16 to 74. 

"Sledge hockey is probably in a better state now than it has been in years," Steve Deveaux said.

He said they took it up several years ago after Kurtis, who was born with spina bifida, "harrassed" his parents for two years about wanting to play.

"After a lot of browbeating we finally tried it and we fell in love with it," Steve Deveaux said.

Montreal-bound

Kurtis Deveaux said he'd been a hockey fan his whole life and loved sledge hockey instantly. 

"It's come so far," he said. "We're at the point now where we have two teams that play on a regular basis, and we have a whole bunch of grassroots youth programs popping up all over the place. Give these kids a few years and this program will be in amazing hands."

Kurtis will be part of the Nova Scotian team during the 2017 Canadian Sledge Hockey Championships in Montreal.

He says he doesn't care what level of success he has, and just wants to see the game grow.

"It's just awesome to have a team to play with," he said. "If it doesn't grow to anything more than this personally, I'm totally OK with that."​