The NHL’s New York Rangers are accustomed to playing for big home crowds. But Tuesday night, it was a different Rangers team getting the cheers.
Nearly 400 people gathered at Bryant Park’s famous ice rink in the heart of New York for the Wheelchair Sports Federation’s New York Sled Rangers 2016 Breakaway event, which celebrated and raised funds to support youth sled hockey players in America’s largest city.
The second edition of the event included a live auction to raise money for the Sled Rangers program, which has nearly doubled in size from 23 to 42 athletes since the first Breakaway event drummed up support and sponsorships in 2014.
It also had some star power.
Former NHL superstar and six-time Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier was on hand, serving as an ambassador for the signature Breakaway event and trying out sled hockey himself.
“You can never judge a person until you’ve skated a mile in their sled, which I got the chance to do today,” Messier said when addressing the attendees. “It was no easy task.
“These kids just want to be considered athletes and hockey players, and that’s what we’re trying to do first and foremost.”
The team is coached by Victor Calise, a member of the 1998 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team who now serves as the commissioner of the mayor’s office for people with disabilities in New York.
Initially a member of the Delaware Valley Hockey League for two years, last season, the Sled Rangers divided into three separate teams by geographic location in the city to create their own New York City league.
They also started an all-star travel team with the goal of having at least once Sled Ranger qualify for the 2022 U.S. Paralympic Team, and they had the chance to meet and skate with U.S. Paralympian Rico Roman last year.
Sebastian Milan, a 10-year-old Sled Rangers forward, was on cloud nine the entire night.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, because Mark Messier doesn’t play hockey anymore and you can only find him on Google images, and he played tonight with us and was very good in the sled,” Milan said.
Milan has been playing with the Sled Rangers every weekend for the last two years since he first heard about the sport when lying in a hospital bed. As one of the squad’s speediest forwards, he sports No. 20 on the back of his jersey just like his hero, New York Rangers winger and Massachusetts native Chris Kreider.
One of his Milan’s teammates, meanwhile, 13-year-old forward Emma Albert, was recruited by Calise three years ago and has dreams of one day playing on a U.S. women’s national sled hockey team.
“I was a little apprehensive about the sport at first, but after I tried it once, there was no turning back for me,” Albert said. “This event means a lot to me and all of my teammates just to know that someone at Mark Messier’s skill level and someone that famous wants to be a part of helping us grow sled hockey as a sport.”
Off the ice, Messier works as CEO of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center in the Bronx, which hopes to become the largest ice sports facility in the world when complete. The venue’s design takes into account the needs of sled hockey players, and will include accessible rinks, benches, penalty boxes and locker rooms.
“We met with his team and went through exercises to talk about what it’s like to venture through an ice arena as someone with a disability,” Calise said. “We even talked about hiring people with disabilities to work as staff on and off the ice. This is hopefully going to be the most accessible rink in the world.”
The Sled Rangers are excited to eventually make the switch from where they currently play — Lasker Rink in Central Park — to the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, thanks to the support of one of hockey’s all-time greats.
“I’m looking to help take this sport to a whole other level in the years to come,” Messier said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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QUESTION: An attacking player takes a shot on goal, which deflects off of a teammate in the attacking end-zone, and is redirected into the netting above the goal. Where is the ensuing face-off located?
ANSWER: While the initial shot was "on goal" in this situation, the face-off must be located in the neutral zone due to the fact that the puck did not redirect out of play off of the goal frame, boards or protective glass.
QUESTION: An attacking player takes a shot towards the goal, which is deflected by a teammate, and is redirected off of the goal frame and out of play. Where is the ensuing face-off?
ANSWER: The "spirit and intent" of Rule 612.c is to reward a close scoring play with an attacking end-zone face-off. In this case, the face-off should be located in the attacking zone since the initial shot and deflection struck the goal frame and directly left the playing surface.
QUESTION: Is there an acceptable time to be a 3rd man in, in an effort for player safety? If one player is on the ground, defenseless, is it acceptable for a 3rd player to try to stop the player throwing punches?
ANSWER: There is never an acceptable time for an additional player to enter a 1 on 1 altercation. In almost all cases, the game officials will enter the altercation as soon as the players fall to the ice or when things become unfair for one player. Additionally, an additional player entering an altercation would turn it into a 2 on 1 altercation which would be regarded as very unfair and dangerous for the opponent.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m looking for a business opportunity, and it is a foldable Hockey stick. Would this be legal in the rules or no?
ANSWER: Rule 301(a) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,
“The sticks shall be made of wood or other material approved by the Rules Committee, and must not have any projections.”
Since a “foldable” stick would likely have some type of hinge that would project from the natural shape of the stick shaft, this would unlikely be approved for use by the USAH Playing Rules Committee.
QUESTION: What penalty, if any, is called against a player who attacks his own teammate. The rule book deals with penalties against "an opponent or opposing player" but does not refer to infractions against one's own teammates. For arguments sake, the player slashes and injures a teammates with intent.
ANSWER: The USAH Playing Rules Casebook does have a situation under Rule 615 that deals with two teammates who fight during a game, but since the likelihood of a player slashing a teammate during a game is extremely rare this type of behavior would be left to the coach to deal with. Please note, the Playing Rules only apply to games. Any bad behavior in practice should be dealt with by the coach and team manager.
QUESTION: Helmets removed before during altercation/fight do players get the 5 minute penalty besides game/match? when don't 5 minute penalties accompany game misconduct/match penalties
ANSWER: If players remove their helmets prior to an altercation, they must be assessed a Match penalty in addition to any other penalties they earn during the altercation (Fighting, Roughing, etc.). In other words, the normal Fighting penalties would be assessed for the fight, but they must be assessed the additional Match for removing their helmets prior to the fight.
QUESTION: I have always wanted to be a Ice Hockey referee ever since I stopped playing sled hockey. I was wondering what the guidelines are in terms of someone who is disabled and can’t walk (I have a medical condition that does not allow me to walk and have any function from the waist down and have to use a wheelchair to move about) would this pose any challenges in terms of becoming a referee for able bodied Ice Hockey?
ANSWER: The USA Hockey Officiating Program and Risk Management Council would likely have some concerns about safety if an official were to use a sled in an Abled-Body game. That being said, it might be possible for you to pursue opportunities as a Sled Hockey Official (where everyone is in sleds). The obvious hurdles would be how you would maneuver around during play while signaling a “delayed penalty” (one arm straight in the air), how you would carry a whistle, and how you would blow a whistle with a full face-mask (we’re not certain you could wear a half-shield visor as an official during a sled game).
You could try reaching out to your USA Hockey District Risk Manager and see what they say. Contact information is listed in the USA Hockey Annual Guide which is available at USAHockey.com.
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