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.
This week’s features:
QUESTION: We have a Dr. who we rostered as a coach to be the teams “medical trainer”. Would he be included in the (4) coaches on the bench or are we allowed to have (4) coaches + (1) medical trainer? (5) total?
ANSWER: USA Hockey Rule 201(b) states that a team may have up to four Team Officials which includes coaches and medical trainers.
QUESTION: At the final buzzer, players from both teams are leaving their benches to congratulate/console their respective goalies. An altercation breaks out near the goal where play ended and the players from both benches skate towards the altercation. Some players get involved in pushing, shoving, etc. Should any of the players be assessed a 629(a) penalty for leaving the bench?
ANSWER: Assuming the players were in the act of leaving the bench when the altercation occurred, Rule 629(a) would not apply to your situation. However, any infractions that these players commit should definitely be penalized.
QUESTION: A player on the ice punches/slashes a player who has left the ice after being ordered off by a referee. Ordered player was headed to the dressing room with under 5 minutes remaining in the game when opposition player slashed the back of his legs after he stepped through the gate. Player then sucker punched the other player when he turned around after the slash. Player who left the ice returns What penalties and are both players subject to suspension?
ANSWER: These infractions should be penalized under Rule 634 (Slashing) and Rule 615 (Fighting).
QUESTION: Are officials required to wear a HECC Certified Helmet and does that include wearing ear guards, as required of players?
ANSWER: Rule 501(c) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,
“Each official is required to wear a black hockey helmet, with chin strap properly fastened, and a half-shield visor properly attached to their helmets.”
The helmet does not have to be HECC approved.
QUESTION: A substitute player whose teammate is already standing on the bench plays the puck while seated on the top of the boards (has not yet made contact with the ice). Both skates are dangling in the playing area. Should this have been penalized as interference seeing he hadn't made contact with the ice yet (rule 625(a)9); or, because both feet were in the playing area the play was good?
ANSWER: A player must be standing on the ice to participate in play. This situation should be penalized for interference.
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Tag(s): News & Features