The Woolwich Thrashers this week wound down a regular season that saw the sledge hockey team put up a record of 8-2. Playing the Durham Steelhawks at the quarter-final playoffs on Sunday in Whitby, the open non-contact division Thrashers met their match in a game that saw the visitors fall 6-4.
Despite the loss, the Woolwich organization has plenty to celebrate as they completed their second ever season in the rep league.
“We played a good team on Sunday in Durham. We’ve played them a couple of other times earlier this season in tournaments, and we had lost both games to them,” said Drew Bomhof, a volunteer with the Thrashers.
“In both of those games, we hadn’t scored in either one of them, and we managed to score four goals on Sunday. Overall we were pretty happy with how the season went as a whole. I think the kids are a little bit disappointed that the season has ended, but they’re still coming together and growing as a whole group so they’re already looking to next season.”
There will be plenty more action in the township before then, however, as Woolwich gets ready to host the 2019 Canadian Sledge Hockey Championships in May. The event will see provincial teams from across Canada compete on Elmira ice.
In a bid to raise the sport’s profile and garner some new fans ahead of the tournament, Thrashers open non-contact player Logan Gillingham organized a sledge hockey game with the students at Grand River Collegiate Institute last Friday.
“Well I started playing sledge hockey last September, so in 2017, and I noticed that nobody really knows about it and it’s a really small sport,” said Gillingham. “So I thought it would be really cool to get a lot of people from my school out and try it out, and then show our school population what it’s like to play sports with a disability.”
One hour and several sore arms later later, the Grand River students say they definitely gained a new appreciation for the sport.
“It’s so tiring on your upper body, like those guys who are … just playing must have insane core and arm strength,” said Grand River student Andrew Fulton.
“It definitely make you look at it differently. It’s not as easy as it looks,” added fellow student Connor Marsh.
The students, to their credit held their own in the game, staying tied right until the final frame before falling 5-3, though they admit the Thrashers may have taken it easy on them.
“Oh yeah,” they say without hesitation. “They were getting a little nervous, and they were like ‘OK, we got to start trying.’”
The sledge hockey championships will be held in Elmira from May 10-12 and are being coordinated in large part by the Thrashers organization. Hosting the championships will not only help put Woolwich on the map within the parasport community, but will help to grow the popularity of the sport at home, which is at the heart of the Thrashers’ mission.
“Our whole focus is about development, the grassroots development of the sport of sledge hockey, so you can start developing athletes for the future and long term,” said Sandy Metzger, who together with her husband Keith founded the Thrashers. “Eventually we can have a national sledge hockey player coming out of Elmira, just like we have NHL players.”
The Thrashers are still looking for volunteers and sponsors for the event, and encourage anyone interested to reach out to the group.