A new adaptive hockey league is coming to Fort McMurray and kids will get to try out the equipment for the first time Saturday.
Variety Alberta, a children's charity, is bringing volt — a three-on-three alternative version of ball hockey originating from Denmark — to Fort McMurray with help from Jumpstart, Canadian Tire's charity program.
Volt can be played on any flat, dry and smooth surface. Players ride in low, go-kart-style electric vehicles that they control with a joystick. The vehicles have a hockey blade at the end that players use to hit a small, hard ball into a low, wide net.
"It targets individuals who have been previously excluded from sports," said Jacey Gamroth, volt hockey co-ordinator.
Variety first brought volt to Alberta last March. Fort McMurray will be the third community in the province to have a volt hockey program, joining Edmonton and Calgary, Gamroth said.
It cost about $80,000 to bring volt to Fort McMurray, he said. The charity is sending seven of the specialized vehicles from Denmark, as well as a coach. A six-week league will also start in January.
Saturday will be the first time people in Fort McMurray can try out the equipment. Larry Horeczy, Variety's chief operating officer, spent Friday putting together the volt chairs.
The goal, he said, is to have volt hockey across Alberta and have competitions throughout the province.
"It's great for everybody from six to 106," said Horeczy.
"As long as you can operate a joystick you can play."
Just over a dozen people have signed up to try volt Saturday.
Allie Wait, a physiotherapist, has been telling families about volt and encouraging them to have their children try it out. There are about 20 to 30 kids in the community who could benefit from volt, she said.
"It's going to be absolutely fantastic," Wait said.
Melanie Bellows, a team manager for Royals Inclusive hockey team, called volt an "amazing opportunity," because she has seen the positive impact participation in sports can have on children with disabilities.
"It gives the individuals with disabilities so many opportunities… it improves their confidence, it increases their independence," she said.
"Seeing their smiles and seeing how much they've accomplished is the best thing ever."
Bellows' nine-year-old son Avery will be among those trying out the sport Saturday.
Selina Chen's son, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, will also be participating Saturday. Chen hopes he feels included in a team and gains joy from it.
"He always want to do the sport with his friends," she said.
Chen's son is not usually able to play sports because of his cerebral palsy. But he should be able to control the vehicle with the joystick, she said, because he has had to use a joystick to communicate and use the computer for the last five years.
"Other people not familiar with a joystick, he might be like playing better," Chen said.