By Cesar Lucero
It is October 16, 2012 and there are still no NHL hockey games to be played. The NHL was set to drop the puck October 11th but the owners and the NHLPA have not come to any agreement on a new collective-bargaining agreement. The biggest reason the NHL has locked out its players is the disparity between the big-market, money-making teams and the small-market teams that struggle to keep their heads above water, according to TSN.ca.
The NHL cannot afford another lockout.
But don’t tell these young athletes here at the Saveology IcePlex in Coral Springs that theres an NHL lockout. The Florida JR Panthers are teaming up with me and our nonprofit organization, Florida Associated Sports Program, to build a sled hockey team down here in South Florida.
Sled hockey is a sport that was designed to allow participants who have a physical disability to play the game of ice hockey. Ice sledge hockey was invented in the early 1960s in Stockholm, Sweden at a rehabilitation center. It is currently one of the most popular sport in the Paralympic Olympic Games.
Ron Robichaud, is the coach for the team in Fort Myers and is also in charge of the Florida Sled Hockey Association. “Don’t weep for anyone here,” said Robichaud.
Liz Williams, who is involved with the JR Panthers, and Ron both started the sled hockey clinics down here in Coral Springs September 16th. “This sport is full check, full contact. These people want you to cheer for them because they are playing well, not because they are disabled” says Robichaud.
Our organization became a part of this when Daniella Lombardi, 26, approached us and asked for help with getting more people to the event. We knew this was a great opportunity for the Florida Associated Sports Program to start our first Sled Hockey team in sunny South Florida.
Daniella was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident in July 2006. She ended up having her right leg amputated above her right knee. She is a full-time student at Florida International University and has been looking forward to building a team down here for a few years now. Lombardi has volunteered with several groups down here and has started her own support group for amputees that meets at Jackson Memorial Hospital the first Wednesday of every month.
“If they get a sled hockey team started, I am definitely playing,” said Lombardi “When I started playing hockey in Tampa, there were people with worse conditions than mine and they were happy,” Lombardi said. “It is truly the best medicine and the best therapy I have ever received.”
The last clinic was held this past Sunday at the Saveology IcePlex and was a success. We had about ten to twelve people on the ice. This was truly one of the happiest moments of my life. We have the players that want to play; now it’s about getting support from the rest of the community. A sled will run about $700, and it costs about $1,000 to put a player on the ice with all of the equipment. USA Hockey provides the insurance.
It’s been almost a year since I first started Florida Associated Sports Program. Our mission is to create an opportunity to help and improve all ages with disabilities in physical fitness. Our goal is to get individuals like you to get involved in athletic sports, and share our values. I truly believe that sports can bring out the best in you. Being born with a disease Osteogenesis Imperfecta (known as brittle bone disease) really limits me to what I can do. But that hasn’t stopped me from loving sports.
Florida Associated Sports Program will be holding a yard sale this Saturday, October 20th, for the team and is looking for any donations for the sale. For further details on the yard sale or any upcoming events please please visit our page www.faspcorp.org or email us at email@example.com.