GB Heading to Sweden

1392007_603131566420871_548905630_nWith the recent announcement that Sweden will be the host for the 2015 World Championships Pool B in March, GB players and staff are ramping up the training to ensure that they are in the best possible shape to come away with a medal.

GB will be competing against four other teams, South Korea, Slovakia, Poland and Sweden, all of whom will be battling for not only a gold medal, but the chance to be promoted to the coveted Pool A for the next round of World Championships in 2017.

A win in March will put the GB team in a fantastic position in the run up to the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang.  After the disappointment of not qualifying for Sochi, there is no doubt that the team will be fighting hard every step of the way.

Head Coach for the team, Andrew Linton, has no doubt that the team will be doing everything they can to win.

Everyone involved with the GB team always looks forward to the World Championships, and they’re a major part of our annual calendar. The players train hard all season for this chance and they all want to be able to make up for a disappointing result in [the Paralympic Qualifiers in] Italy.

The GB squad will be training regularly over the next few months and the final lineup for the team will be confirmed closer to the time, but for now, it’s all hands on deck.

Getting to Ostersund, Sweden won’t be possible though without some help.  As with many winter sports, there is a severe lack of funding available. While the BSHA has various fundraising activities in the pipeline, the team is also looking for some corporate sponsors.

If you’d like your company to support the team, and you want to know that you’re helping some of our best athletes to realise their dreams of representing their country, please get in touch with us, either by email at or through the form on the contact page.  There are a number of different sponsorship opportunities available and we’re sure we can come up with something to benefit both your company and the GB team.

New Captain for the Kestrels

Matt Woollias [Photo Courtesy of Jake Oakley]

Over in Hull, the Kingston Kestrels have had a few weeks away from training to refocus themselves and get prepared for next season.  Along with an enhanced commitment to recruitment, they have also been making some changes to the team itself.

For the past few years, Ian Warner, one of the most experienced sledge hockey players in the country, has worn the C on his jersey.  But now he’s decided it’s time to hand the role over to someone else – 25 year old Matt Woollias.

Matt is one of the newer players in the league, having come into sledge hockey after a cancer diagnosis led to his leg being amputated.  An avid footballer, he wasn’t prepared to give up sports entirely, and soon discovered that the ice held as much excitement for him as a football pitch did.

Now four and half years clear of cancer, with international experience under his belt and a strong determination to succeed, he is thrilled to be offered the captaincy for the team he loves.

It’s a great honour to be named captain after such a short time in the sport. I am relishing the challenge and hope to help the team to silverware next season. It will be difficult to follow in the footsteps of Ian who has been a fantastic captain for the club over the years.

So while the roster of the Kestrels will look a little different next season, the team will still have the same aspirations they’ve always had – play hard, win silver.

If you’d like to check out the Kestrels – or any of the other teams – and give sledge hockey a try yourself, check out their team page here on the website, or visit them directly on Facebook or Twitter.

From the Rink to the Pool

Jon at the US Warrior Games

Jon at the US Warrior Games

Peterborough Phantoms player Jon Le Galloudec swapped his sledge for swimming trunks a couple of weeks ago when he joined more than 100 other UK Armed Forces personnel at the first ever Invictus Games.

Wounded in Iraq 7 years ago when he was shot in the spine by a sniper, Jon was told by doctors that he wouldn’t walk again. Not willing to accept that as an option, he pushed himself every day, until he was defying expectations.

It was at Stoke Mandeville that I was told I would never walk again, however, me being me,  I stubbornly ignored them, and two months after I was shot I took my first wobbly steps. The first time I walked I was in tears, my mum was in tears, even the nurses were in tears – I just didn’t think it would ever happen for me.  I was told that I would always be in a wheelchair so walking out of the hospital, three months later, and proving them wrong, was one of the best days of my life.

Jon with his Invictus medals

Jon with his Invictus medals

Today, with the help of pioneering leg splints from a company called Ottobock, he is not only walking, but has taken up running again.  The splints, which are funded by Help for Heroes, work by storing energy in the carbon fibre frame. This energy is then returned as the user steps, acting like a spring to support the movement.

Last month, Jon added another achievement to his ever-growing list – competing in the first ever Invictus Games in London. The brainchild of HRH Prince Harry, the Games were modelled on the US Warrior Games after he’d visited them in Colorado in 2013.  Bringing wounded, injured and sick service personnel together in a huge sporting event, it was the type of challenge that Jon thrives on.  Having already won a bronze medal at the Warrior Games representing the British Armed Forces team, he started training for the selection trials.

Unfortunately, the lingering issues related to his disability meant that Jon was in a lot of pain during his training, including developing a chest infection that left him – literally – falling onto Prince Harry’s lap at one of the pre-Invictus events.  Setting him back with his training, Jon was concerned that he hadn’t made the team, but in mid-August the final 130-strong British Armed Forces Team was announced, and he was thrilled to be included in that number.

Taking part in 4 swimming races, Jon knew it was going to be hard to win, but that wasn’t the main reason for wanting to take part.

It may not have been about the winning for Jon, but when he stood on the podium to receive the first of his two bronze medals, it was still a pretty amazing moment. On top of that, and potentially more importantly, he managed to beat his own personal best times in all four races. He also proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that he wasn’t going to let the events of June 2007 defeat him.

The Invictus Games is all about the taking part, unlike the Paralympics, which is about winning and being the best in the world. You see, sometimes the bravest and hardest thing is actually stepping up to that start line to compete. Especially when you think about what each and every competitor will have overcome simply to get to that point.

You can read more about Jon at his blog, or find him on Twitter @JBAInspiration.  You can also see him in person playing with the Peterborough Phantoms Sledge Hockey Team!

Visiting with the Steelkings

When the Sheffield Steelkings received an email from two students asking for help with a presentation for school, they decided to invite the two girls along to meet the team.

Emily and Seren are in Year 7 at Wickersley Comprehensive School in Rotherham, and are doing a project on paralympic sports. With obvious good taste, the girls chose to do their presentation on sledge hockey!

Seren and Emily

Seren and Emily with a World Championship bronze medal [photo courtesy of Neil Riley]

From their vantage point in the stands at IceSheffield, they watched the training session last week with team manager Kim, learning about the differences and similarities between sledge and standing hockey, and getting to see how the team plays together. Despite the excitement on the ice, they were somewhat more awed by the World Championship Bronze medal that netminder Bryan Hackworth brought along to show them.

After getting to try on Steelkings jerseys (which were a little too large!), they tried a sledge on for size and experienced what it might feel like if they were on the ice. They still had a few more questions for the players, so when they came off the ice, the girls had a quick chat with a couple of them, making lots of notes for their presentation.

The Steelkings are looking forward to seeing Emily and Seren again next year when the 2015 Planet Ice League starts up, and hopefully in a couple of years they’ll be ready to start training on the ice with the team!

Seren and Emily with the Steelkings

Seren and Emily with the Steelkings [photo courtesy of Neil Riley]

Back to School for Sledge Hockey Players

Last week saw the first International Sledge Hockey School take place at Silver Blades Ice Rink Widnes.  With sledge players from around the world coming to join some of the best new players we have in the UK, it was three days of training – both on and off the ice.  More importantly, it was a chance for players to get to know some of the players they hope to compete against in future international tournaments.

Invitees from the UK teams were Jon Le Galloudec and Tyler Christopher [Peterborough Phantoms], Jason Solmon [Cardiff Devils] and Anthony Booth [Manchester Phoenix], along with GB Head Coach Andrew Linton and Manchester Phoenix Captain and Assistant Coach, Karl Nicholson.  They joined 15 players and coaches from Slovakia, Austria and Norway, who each brought a different series of training drills and discussion points to the event.

The GB team ready to get started [Photo courtesy of Paul Woollias]

The GB team ready to get started [Photo courtesy of Paul Woollias]

In conjunction with Halton Borough Council and Silver Blades Widnes, the event coincided with the launch of a new sensory rink and soft play area. As part of the launch, a friendly game was organised for the first evening of the school. Billed as “GB vs The Rest of the World”, the UK based participants were joined by some of the more experienced GB players. Familiar international names such as Gary Farmer, Rob Gaze and Matt Clarkson took to the ice, easily slipping back into their roles, allowing the new players to appreciate the added challenges that this level of competition brings.

Despite the familiarity of the GB team, the Rest of the World team proved that they were certainly a force to be reckoned with. It was a clean game, with very few penalties, and both teams were evenly matched and neither was willing to give up without a fight.  Just moments before the end of the first period, GB managed to find the back of the net and get the scoring started.  Although there was a little confusion over who got the credit for the goal, the final consensus (at least from the bench) was that it belonged to Gary Farmer.

The second period remained a close battle, but GB were starting to find their place and seemed to take a little more control.  The first penalty came about halfway through the period, with GB’s Matt Woollias sitting for 2 minutes.  However, when Austria’s Stefan Eberdorfer was whistled for a high-stick infringement less than a minute later, we had our first 4-on-4 shift.  Coming up on the end of the period, Woollias was back on the ice, and GB ended the period on the player advantage.

A quick visit from the zamboni – and Widnes Wild’s mascot Pukka Penguin – between periods gave all of the players a chance for a quick breather, but they were soon back on the ice ready for the third and final period.  Gb started with a power play, but even once Eberdorfer’s penalty was over, GB dominated the ice, keeping the action firmly in the opposing end.  With only a few minutes left on the clock, the third penalty was issued, this time to Gary Farmer, who receieved 2 minutes for elbowing.  GB’s penalty killing team held firm though, and only seconds after Farmer returned to the ice, they scored a second goal, this time from Karl Nicholson.  It was already looking like a solid win for the GB team when Farmer decided he wanted another point.  His goal came almost exactly a minute after Nicholson’s, and gave GB a 3-0 lead just in time for the final buzzer.

The supporters – many of whom had never seen a sledge hockey game before – were thrilled with the home win, and gave a rousing cheer for both teams as all of the players came onto the ice and the MVP awards were handed out.

Both teams on the ice at the end of the game [Photo courtesy of Paul Woollias]

Both teams on the ice at the end of the game [Photo courtesy of Paul Woollias]

The game was a great opportunity to see some of the best players this country has to offer, as well as some fantastic players from other countries.  But the sledge hockey school certainly wasn’t over for those “enrolled”.

With the excitement of the previous night’s game over, the following morning started bright and early for all the players.  With both on- and off-ice activities planned, each of the different coaches introduced a number of their own drills and practice sessions, sharing ideas with both the players and the other coaches.  It didn’t seem to matter to any of them that they’d been on the ice for three days – everyone was still raring to go.  Some of the on-ice drills seemed almost as brutal as the international game had been, with (legal!) hits and checks being thrown from all sides!  There were also plenty of opportunities for the players to get to know each other.  While the language barriers made it slightly harder to chat, no one was going to let that get in the way, and a lot of new friendships were formed.

All of the GB players who were invited to attend enjoyed the opportunity.  Jason Solmon from Cardiff Devils, was particularly thrilled with his invite:

I was proud and honoured to have been included in the International Sledge Hockey School, and found the experience invaluable to aiding my development to the next level.

There were many new ideas, drills and techniques that I will personally pass on to the Cardiff Devils Sledge Hockey Team, which will hopefully enable the sport to move forward in terms of player quality in the future.

May I take this opportunity to say a big thank you to all at the BHSA, Silver Blades, Planet Ice and the GB Sledge Hockey Team for their continuing support to both myself and all players of Sledge Hockey.

This event was hopefully only the first of several to come, offering more opportunities in the future for both GB players and those from other countries.

The BSHA would like to thank Silver Blades Widnes for hosting the event, and Halton Borough Council for all their support in making this event possible.

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