Sled Hockey Warriors
Forget everything you think you know about Sled Hockey because the Capital District Sled Warriors is a program like no other! If you pride yourself on teamwork and positivity, this is the perfect sports team for you. From October to April, the team meets weekly on Sundays from 11:00 to 12:00 p.m.. Practices are held on weekends at the Albany County Hockey Facility ice rink, with tournaments and games scheduled throughout the late winter and early spring.
Twelve years ago, the team (originally Bethlehem Sled Hockey) was founded by Tom and Kim Wilson of Slingerlands for their son and local teenagers with physical ailments. They wanted nothing more than to make hockey accessible to those with lower limb disabilities. STRIDE Adaptive Sports took over the team in 2009, and the sport has continued to grow in popularity ever since. If you live in the Capital Region, we invite you to join a practice to see what all the fun is all about!
Similar to ice hockey, sled hockey is an exciting and competitive full-contact sport. Players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades, and each player uses two sticks with metal picks on the end. Players use their picks to pass, stick handle, shoot the puck, and propel their sled across the ice. This past season, the team had 15 members with two additonal pushers. There is a varsity and junior varsity squad, including numerous wounded warrior veterans who actively participate.
This past April, the Sled Warriors won their first tournament in five years at the 21st Annual New England Invitational Sled Hockey Tournament with a thrilling double overtime goal in the championship game against the New York Rangers. The willing goal was scored by Stefon Stillwell, giving the team a 6-5 victory. Earlier in the season, the Sled Warriors also competed in the NYS Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid, earning a silver medal for their hard work!
For Sled Warrior members like Stefon Stillwell and Steve Pechacek, also known as “Paycheck” by his teammates, sled hockey provides its members with limitless opportunities to give back and serve others. They are firm believes that active involvement in several STRIDE programs combines the best of two worlds! On the ice, Stefon Stillwell is the Team Captain and during the off-season, he is the Camp Director at the STRIDE Center for Outdoor Recreation and Education (SCORE). Army veteran Steve Pechacek is a member of STRIDE’s Wounded Warriors program, also volunteering at STRIDE when he is not defending the hockey net.
While winning may be the primary incentive for some, the Sled Warriors believe that victories come from the pride and happiness they radiate both on and off the ice. Regardless of skill, no player is ever turned away; everyone finds their true passion on the ice. The idea of “losing” is unfamiliar to them; everything they do is for the love of the game! Having such a positive mindset has rewarded this team with tremendous success in all that they accomplish together.
– Posted by Nora Kipp