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Alberta Health Services offers free introduction to para hockey in Lethbridge

It’s completely normal for parents to carry their children, especially young ones. But for Alex Senneker, it’s literally a daily thing.

His son Kassian has cerebral palsy, which has affected the use of his legs. But that doesn’t stop Kassian from being active and adventurous, and his dad may have found the perfect activity for him: para hockey.

“We were looking for something Kassian can play,” Alex explained. “And we found a company out in Medicine Hat who lent us their sled, so we brought it to a free skate and then Lethbridge brought in this program.”

The program is run by Alberta Health Services, which has teamed up with the Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association as well as the Lethbridge Sport Council to invite residents to try para hockey, formerly known as sledge hockey.

Shana Wandler, a clinical lead of therapeutic recreation with AHS, said that although some players have limited abilities, the sport really levels the playing field to be equal and inclusive for everyone.

“Having the ability to play an adaptive sport is really challenging and it’s quite a different skillset,” Wandler said as she looked out on the ice and saw Alex playing with Kassian. “ There’s also the opportunity for family involvement here.

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“We have a lot of families who have a loved one who does live with disability, and they’ve described it as being on an equal playing field — an opportunity to learn something new together.”

Events are spread out throughout the year with seven more still coming. The hope is that people will turn up, even if they have never been on the ice or can’t skate.

All the equipment is provided for anyone willing to try. On average, there are about 12 people attending the introduction hour. The AHS team only has 16 sleds, so booking in advance is advised.

While Alex was on “the bench” during a scrimmage, he explained that it’s an introduction and that there’s no judgment, just fun.

“Everyone can come and try it; it doesn’t matter what your ability is,” he said. “They’ll put you in a sled and give it a try and show you the ropes.”

And there is hope from Wandler to grow the project into something more.

“In the end, if there was an opportunity to grow the sport and there was enough interest, what we would love to see is that there would be an association formed down the road. And that this could become a longstanding initiative.”

For now, Kassian and his dad will continue to play together and enjoy the sport. When they were getting ready to watch the Zamboni together, Kassian was asked what his favourite part of hockey was.

“The game,” he said with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.

For more information you can contact Wandler via email at [email protected].


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