Photo credit: Bill Wippert
When the 2017 USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the NHL, kicks off at Plymouth Ice Center on Thursday, November 16th, hockey fans in Minnesota will have the opportunity to watch some of the best athletes in the world.
Among the record 300-plus competitors slated to participate, 15 are current members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, who may be selected to represent the U.S. for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. Ten of those players already have a gold medal to their name after helping the U.S. squad claim the title at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“We have some amazing athletes,” said Guy Gosselin, the head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. “They are some of the best players in the world.”
Gosselin knows what it takes to be at that level too as he experienced it firsthand skating for Team USA at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Winter Games. Gosselin also served as an assistant coach for the gold-medal winning 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team alongside head coach Jeff Sauer (Madison, Wis.), who passed away last February.
While Gosselin is accustomed to seeing the game’s top players, he’s admits his first experience with sled hockey blew him away and continues to amaze him to this day.
“It’s pretty amazing what these guys can do out on the ice,” said Gosselin. “It’s not an easy sport. You are playing hockey while you’re propelling yourself with two sticks. You stickhandle with both hands and you shoot with both hands.”
Players must also be able to balance their sled, which is basically a chair with skate blades underneath it, at speeds of nearly 15 miles per hour. It’s a challenge that requires a strong upper body and great core strength.
Needless to say, sled hockey is a game that takes a lot of practice just to learn the basic skills, much less the ability to do them at high speeds and with pressure from opponents.
“You can’t be focusing on digging your sticks into the ice and trying to push yourself,” said Gosselin. “You have to see what’s going on around you at the same time and how the play is developing. That’s hard.”
To make the game even more challenge, the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team players only meet as a team periodically for training weekends so they must train diligently on their own to develop their skills.
“We have certain standards that we want to hold our guys to,” said Gosselin. “When they’re not with the team and the training sessions, we expect them to be working out and being focused and staying in great shape.”
With the growth of sled hockey, in large part thanks to USA Hockey, the NHL and events such as the Sled Classic, most of the players have local teams they can train and compete with which helps.
“They need to continue to develop their skills,” said Gosselin. “If they can have a team that they can get into a routine with, that is going to help them a ton.”
Later this week, we’ll get a chance to see just how skilled these players are while getting an early preview of what’s to come at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games.
Below is a list of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team and the U.S. Development Sled Hockey Team players who will be participating in the 2017 USA Hockey Sled Classic and the teams they will be playing on.
|Name||Pos.||Sled Classic Team||Division|
|Tyler Carron||D||Colorado Avalanche||Tier I|
|Ralph DeQuebec||D||Colorado Avalanche||Tier I|
|Nikko Landeros (A)||D||Colorado Avalanche||Tier I|
|Josh Pauls (C)||D||St. Louis Blues||Tier I|
|Travis Dodson||F||Chicago Blackhawks||Tier I|
|Noah Grove||F||Boston Bruins||Tier I|
|Luke McDermott||F||Buffalo Sabres||Tier I|
|Kevin McKee||F||Chicago Blackhawks||Tier I|
|Josh Misiewicz||F||Chicago Blackhawks||Tier I|
|Adam Page||F||Buffalo Sabres||Tier I|
|Rico Roman||F||Colorado Avalanche||Tier I|
|Brody Roybal||F||Chicago Blackhawks||Tier I|
|Paul Schaus||F||Buffalo Sabres||Tier I|
|Jen Lee||G||Chicago Blackhawks||Tier I|
|Steve Cash||G||St. Louis Blues||Tier I|
|Name||Pos.||Sled Classic Team||Division|
|John Curtin||D||Nashville Predators||Tier II|
|Colin Gooley||D||Buffalo Sabres||Tier I|
|Billy Hanning||D||St. Louis Blues||Tier I|
|Kyle Zych||D||Boston Bruins||Tier I|
|Nathan Bryant||F||Buffalo Sabres||Tier I|
|Harrison Burgess||F||Pittsburgh Penguins||Tier II|
|David Eustace||F||Boston Bruins||Tier I|
|Josh Hargis||F||Colorado Avalanche||Tier I|
|Erik Knotts||F||Columbus Blue Jackets||Tier II|
|Aaron Loy||F||Anaheim Ducks||Tier III|
|Dan McCoy||F||Pittsburgh Penguins||Tier II|
|Ben Musselman||F||Columbus Blue Jackets||Tier II|
|Christian Storms||F||Buffalo Sabres||Tier I|
|Griffin LaMarre||G||Boston Bruins||Tier I|
|Bo Reichenbach||G||Colorado Avalanche||Tier I|