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STRIDE Sled Hockey Wins Gold at Empire State Winter Games 2020


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Evans

Tel: (518) 598-1279

E-mail: mevans@stride.org

PHOTOS INCLUDED

CAPITAL REGION SLED HOCKEY TEAM WINS GOLD AT EMPIRE STATE WINTER GAMES

STRIDE ADAPTIVE SPORTS’ CAPITAL DISTRICT SLED WARRIOR TEAM SHINES AT LAKE PLACID

Albany, NY – The Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid conjures up images of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” But for STRIDE Adaptive Sports’ sled hockey program – the Capital District Sled Warriors – reaching the podium was more about equal opportunity and everyday magic. With a group of adaptive athletes from 14-54 years old (including combat-injured veterans), the Capital Region team won the gold medal in sled hockey on Sunday at the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid. The thrilling title game against Fort Drum Mountain Warrior team went into overtime, still ending in a 0-0 tie.  This led to the infamous one-on-one shootout between 3 chosen offensive players from each team against the goalies.

 Natasha Pomakoy, a resident of Schenectady, scored the game-winning goal when she lifted the puck over the opposing goaltender’s shoulders and into the net. Pomakoy lives with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, an incurable condition that results in everyday pain that has little-to-no effective treatment. It is known as the “suicide disease,” but Pomakoy says sled hockey has given her renewed purpose.

“I used to dread the winter season and the increase in pain flares it brings. Now I look forward to the winter season with glee! From October through April, I’m absolutely thrilled to be at practice every Sunday. People are on the ice moving SO fast. They are laughing and having fun while their wheelchairs and crutches are off to the side. STRIDE’s sled hockey program has given me so much. It’s given me friends and things to look forward to, and it’s given me the ability to proudly say I’m an athlete. For the first time in years, I have a goal: to be a sled hockey warrior! And that means the world to me.”

Just as fast-paced and physical as stand-up hockey, sled hockey follows most of the typical ice hockey rules with the exception of equipment. Players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades, and each player uses two sticks instead of one.

For new player Brenda Jensis, who had heart surgery in 2017 and awoke to find she could no longer stand up or walk around, the trip to the podium was more about freedom. “STRIDE and sled hockey are so much better than anything I ever expected. My week is about looking forward to pulling my jersey over my head, snapping my helmet on, getting in my sled, and feeling free again. To me the team is about feeling free, but better yet about feeling free together. It’s about being there for each other, being competitive together, including winning and losing together. It’s pushing each other to be your best without letting our disabilities limit our abilities.”

The Sled Warriors, who took silver in last year’s games were hungry for gold. Next up, the team plays a tournament in two weeks, where last season they were victorious at the Amelia Cup Invitational. While the team is finding new highs of participation, freedom and success, it comes at a price. According to STRIDE Adaptive Sports, food, travel and lodging at Lake Placid cost over $7,000.00. The team also plays two other major tournaments every year, pays for ice time for practices, and for expenses including equipment. The team is looking for a corporate sponsor to step up and help ensure they can continue to travel and compete. Individual donations can be made at https://www.stride.org/sledhockey and interested team sponsors can contact Megan Evans, Program Director at STRIDE Adaptive Sports, for more information.

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About STRIDE Adaptive Sports

Celebrating 31 years of service to the community, STRIDE Adaptive Sports is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides over 8,000 adaptive sport and recreation lessons each year to individuals with disabilities, focusing on youth and Wounded Warriors. With office headquarters in New York’s Capital Region, STRIDE offers programs in over 17 different sports to more than 2000 families at 28+ regional locations each year. With an emphasis on individual life-time sports, STRIDE programs use specialized equipment or teaching aids for successful participation to “level the playing field” for all. STRIDE is a partner member of Disabled Sports USA and Professional Ski Instructors of America; a US Paralympic Sport Club; a training club for New York Special Olympics; and an official Red Cross Provider. STRIDE is recognized as one of the leading adaptive sport programs in the Northeastern United States. More information about STRIDE Adaptive Sports can be found at www.stride.org

PHOTO & INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES

STRIDE Sled Warriors (gold) with Fort Drum Mountain Warriors (silver) at ESWG

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