Quesnel resident and Paralympian James Gemmell had a few laughs while encouraging local residents to play in a sledge hockey game. Gemmell, who plays on Canada’s national sledge hockey team, is trying to grow the sport in Quesnel and other centres in the Cariboo. MELANIE LAW PHOTO

Quesnel sledge hockey players of all levels called to the rink

Quesnel resident and Paralympian, James Gemmell, invites local players to build sledge hockey team

There’s a sport and a group of its tough players in Quesnel a lot of people don’t know about.

James Gemmell, the only British Columbia sledge hockey player for Canada’s national Paralympic team, has opened up the rink to anyone willing to take up the challenge and become a part of Quesnel’s growing team.

Gemmell says there’s a misconception that the game is only for people with disabilities.

The local team just needs players who are up for the challenge and are interested in learning the sport.

The same rules apply to sledge hockey as any other ice hockey game, but the players sit on specially-made metal frames with blades that run along the bottom.

It’s quite a workout for the players, as they use one arm to shoot the puck and the other to push off the ice, gaining speed and momentum to manoeuvre across the rink.

It’s not an easy task and, as you can imagine, there are a lot of laughs and entertainment trying to master the skill.

Gemmell, however, is a fantastic teacher.

After losing his leg in an automobile accident in 2004, he became a driven member of a sledge hockey program in Surrey two years after his accident.

Since then, Gemmell has been focused on his career on the Canadian national team and in opening and expanding the sport in Quesnel for both adults and children.

“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 come a long way since he started building a group and creating the events.

Sixteen players showed up to the game on Nov. 8, which is a good sign for Tarin Lefebvre, program co-ordinator at the Quesnel Recreation Centre (QRC).

She is encouraging people who are interested to show up to the rink on Dec. 8 for the opportunity to try out the sleds.

Between 1:30 p.m and 2:30 p.m., the second rink will be open to any age and ability, allowing people interested to get a feel for the sport.

The final free game-session is on Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. and is a great opportunity to learn the sport and decide if it’s something you want to participate in.

Gemmell offers all the equipment needed, so people just have to show up with an interest to learn.

Players are encouraged to show up a half hour earlier, as equipment is limited and games are on a first-come-first-served basis. The teams are broken up according to the numbers of players who show up, so team sizes vary.

After the Dec. 16 game, players pay a drop-in fee of $8.

Folks can follow-up on schedules at the Quesnel Angel’s Sledge Hockey Team Facebook page, where Gemmell posts events and times and can answer any questions you may have. People can also contact Lefebvre at QRC at 250-992-8200.

With winter coming up, this is a great way to get exercise and learn something new.

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