Charlottetown, PE - December 4 2016 - Game 2 - Canada vs. Norway during the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge at the MacLauchlan Arena in Charlottetown, PEI, Canada. (Photo: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images)

Paralympic medallist named to national sledge hockey team for second time

Quesnel’s James Gemmell begins training this week with hopes of heading to 2018 Paralympic Games

Quesnel’s James Gemmell was chosen for Canada’s national sledge hockey team for the 2017/18 season. It’s the second time Gemmell has been named to the national team, after competing in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, where his team won bronze.

Gemmell, 37, is one of 20 players named to this season’s team after the selection camp in Calgary at the beginning of the month.

He said the competition to make the team was tougher than ever this year.

“The competition is getting tougher and tougher, and I’m getting older and older… every year it gets harder. I’m hard on myself so I always assume I’m not going to make the team until I make the roster.”

Of the 20 named to the team, 17 (including Gemmell) played on the national team that won gold at the 2017 IPC World Para Hockey Championship in Gangneung, South Korea in April.

“It’s an amazing feeling to make the team again. Most kids growing up in Canada dream about getting the opportunity to play for Team Canada and wear that sweater.”

Sledge hockey is one of the most popular sports in the Winter Paralympic Games. The rules are essentially the same as hockey, but players sit on specially-designed sledges, consisting of skate blades on a metal frame that allow the puck to pass underneath. Sledge hockey players use two sticks, for shooting the puck and to push off the ice in order to speed up.

Gemmell, who has lived in Quesnel most of his life, grew up playing hockey. After an automobile accident in 2004 claimed his right leg, he relocated to Surrey for rehabilitation.

“I was sitting on the couch flipping through channels and I happened to see the gold medal game for the 2006 Paralympics on TV. That was about two years after I lost my leg. I saw a bunch of guys with missing legs like me, so I decided I wanted to get out and give it a shot.”

He found a sledge hockey program in Surrey and joined the team.

“I had a hockey background, so it was a matter of figuring out how to manoeuvre and skate with my arms. I came up quick; within a year I was at my first national team selection camp. But I realized at that time that I wasn’t very good, so I had to go home and work for another year or two.”

His work paid off. Defenseman Gemmell starts training this week, and said he’ll be in Toronto for a training camp from the beginning of October, working hard alongside his Team Canada colleagues.

Although Gemmell has made the national team, just 17 players will be chosen from the 20-man roster to compete in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in South Korea in March next year.

“Three guys will get left behind in Canada when the team leaves for the Paralympic Games. Everyone wants one of those spots. But the competition among ourselves makes the team better in the long run.”

When he’s not competing on the world stage, Gemmell is taking care of many of Quesnel’s four-legged friends at Ridgetop K9 Boarding Kennels, which he owns and operates. He is also involved with the local sledge hockey program, but he said it was recently cancelled due to lack of players.

“I was told by the City of Quesnel that they are going to shut down our sledge hockey program. But more recently I got an email from someone involved who wants to meet, so I’m thinking we might get it back…

“It’s hard because I’m gone half the hockey season with the national team, so it’s difficult for me to be really involved. But I want to promote the sport as much as I can, in the Cariboo region especially. The towns in this area are very hockey oriented and if we can keep it going, we can hopefully expand the program in as many communities as possible. It’s something I’m working on the side.”

Gemmell is the only national team member from B.C., but says the province has a way to go to develop its sledge hockey programming to match that of other provinces.

“B.C. is one of the farthest behind in the development of the sport. I’m trying to fight that and promote the sport more in our province.”

With a Paralympic medal, a world championship win and the potential to face off in the 2018 Paralympic Games, Gemmell is certainly raising the profile of the sport in the B.C. – and he’s making this city mighty proud too.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Gemmell during the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, PEI. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

Quesnel’s James Gemmell has been named to the 2017/18 national sledge hockey team. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada

Gemmell’s bronze medal from the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Melanie Law photo

Just Posted

Quesnel boxer prepares for first pro fight in Canada

Shawn Archer is set to fight Ari Ashari at The Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam on March 21

Quesnel invited to bid on 2024 B.C. Winter Games

The City will discuss partnerships with regional district, school district, Lhtako Dené First Nation

College of New Caledonia Quesnel’s Science and Technology Day showcases passion and opportunities

The public event featured the School District 28 science fair, tours and presentations

Quesnel curlers headed to B.C. Club Challenge

Team Plant will represent the Cariboo Region in the provincial championship

Quesnel boxer impresses in Atlanta

Brittyn “Hurricane” Carter lost a split decision to the two-time U.S. national champion

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Most Read