A Para Ice Hockey Program is now available in Prince George.
It was made possible through a partnership with BC Hockey, Sportability of BC and Northern Adapted Sports.
A demonstration was held at Kin 1 over the weekend which featured Quesnel product and member of the Canadian Paralympic Team James Gemmell.
He has been a part of the national program who has picked up a gold medal at the 2013 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships in Korea as well a bronze and silver medals at the 2014 and 2018 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia and Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The 38-year-old got involved with the sport after a vehicle incident changed the course of his life forever.
“I was in a car accident in 2004 and I lost my leg and I was sitting around at home in 2006 flipping through the channels and I came across the Gold Medal Game from the Olympics in Turin and as soon as I saw it, I saw a bunch of amputees like myself and I wanted to play. I finally got my opportunity to do that in Surrey.”
As for why it has taken so long for the north and the rest of the province for that matter to get more programs off the ground, Gemmell is of the opinion it all comes down to numbers.
“It’s hard to find athletes. It’s hard to find people that want to play sledge hockey because it can be very physically demanding and takes a lot of skill.”
Fellow player Brandy Stiles states an inspiration like him increases the chances of seeing growth in the sport.
“We’re actually really excited because he suggested we do some northern tournaments at some point, which is really kind of cool because we often don’t get to do stuff that stays in the north.”
Hockey Canada Prince George-based Board of Directors member Randy Henderson believes having a pair of players from the Humboldt Broncos bus crash who had the desire to pick up the game following a tragic event can only help pique the interest.
“I think it is an incredible inspiration to the public to see athletes like James who have lost a leg or something where you overcome a great accident like Humboldt is something to be proud of.”
A total of ten on-ice sessions have been booked where as many as 17 people have shown up at one time, with many of them having previously played wheelchair rugby and basketball.
(Files from Brendan Pawliw with MyPGNow)