The Elmira Sugar Kings are accustomed to lining up against opponents who would like nothing more than to pound them into the ice.
Next Saturday, however, they’ll be matching up against some of their biggest fans as members of the Kings will be playing against the Woolwich Wolves Special Olympics floor hockey team at Woodside Bible Fellowship, located at 200 Barnswallow Dr. in Elmira.
This will be the second time that the Kings have played against the Special Olympic athletes, and the Wolves’ head coach says the team is looking forward to the rematch.
“A lot of our athletes attend the Sugar King games quite regularly, and they look up to them so much,” said Darren Martin prior to the team’s weekly game on Wednesday night.
“Ever since the last time we played the Kings they’ve talked about it a lot,” he added with a laugh.
The team normally heads to a tournament this time of year to play against other Special Olympic athletes from across the province, but Martin said this year they wanted to try something different and stay a little closer to home, adding that it would be a “fun and memorable” day for the athletes who idolize the Kings.
The Special Olympics have been in Elmira since the mid-90s, and now boasts about 50 athletes who play sports ranging from floor hockey and bowling in the winter, to baseball in the summer. About 17 regularly attend the floor hockey matches at Woodside, and while they do focus a little bit on skills and drills, the majority of the night is spent playing inter-squad games against each other.
“It’s great for them. This is often the highlight of their week, and it’s good for them to get some exercise running and moving, but even just playing,” said Martin, adding that the players, who range in age from teenagers to middle-aged adults, can be just as competitive as other athletes.
“It can get quite heated, just like the Sugar Kings,” Martin said, “but we always shake hands at the end.”
The event next Saturday gets started at 10 a.m. with an opening ceremony and an hour of drills with the Kings. Then, the Wolves and the Kings will faceoff for an hour-long matchup.
At noon, a pizza lunch will be served, which will be free to all participants and $1 per slice for fans and observers.
At 12:45 p.m. the Kings will play against the staff and elders of Woodside, and at 1:30 p.m. the Wolves will take on the Woodside staff. Finally, from 2 to 2:30 there will be a pick-up game of floor hockey for anyone who wishes to participate.
Martin encourages anyone from the public to come out and cheer for their favourite player, and to enjoy the day’s events.