Help For Our Hero


Doug Hankinson [Far Right] with the rest of the Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey Team

When Doug Hankinson discovered sledge hockey early in 2014, he didn’t realise then how important it would become to him. He left the Royal Engineers in 1999 after having served for 13 years, and was looking for something to replace the rugby that he’d loved to play.

After seeing the coverage of the 2012 Winter Olympics, and catching an episode of Channel 4’s “The Last Leg”, Doug decided to make enquiries about local sledge hockey teams. He was put in touch with Karl Nicholson, captain of the Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey Team, and was on the ice shortly afterwards.

While Doug is one of the newer members of the team, he’s thrown himself into the game completely.

It is an art form in its own right.  Learning to balance in the sledge on ice, the physicality that is needed just to move around (working on upper body and cardio).  Learning the techniques for handling the sledge, using the sticks correctly and trying to hit the puck at the same time.  Then to top it all, you play with and against some of the best Paralympic Sledge players in GB…quite a baptism of fire for my first season.

But the one thing he found that was holding him back was the equipment. While all of the BSHA sledge hockey teams have a supply of sledges, padding and sticks that they gladly loan out to new players, most discover a huge improvement in their play when they finally get into a sledge that’s been built to their own specs. But sledges aren’t cheap, with the only current suppliers being outside of the UK, players can be looking at around £500 for one of their own.

But like all Royal Engineers, Doug decided to find a way to resolve the problem. With some advice from his Manchester Phoenix captain, he applied for a grant from Help For Heroes and was thrilled when his application was approved.

The new kit from “Help for Heroes” will help build on the new confidence I’ve already gained and allow greater control of the new sledge.  I have also been using Pro-lite sticks from Draft Wheelchairs, which are wooden but an ideal start, so I’m upgrading to Composite Carbon Sticks.  I also requested better shoulder padding and footwear.  The boots I use are just walking boots and I need better protection with my feet (Triple arthrodesis, both feet), especially if the pick end of the stick gets you!  The confidence of being better protected, better armed and better maneuvering will hopefully show during training and into the 2015 season.

Doug’s plan now is to get his new equipment ordered and start training with it over the off-season. He already got his first point against the Peterborough Phantoms with an assist on one of Karl Nicholson’s goals and fully intends to increase that number in the new season.

If you’re considering giving sledge hockey a try, but don’t know if it’s for you, Doug’s got some advice:

Try it, it may just be the best thing that changes your life.

Who are we to argue with that?

If you’d like to find out more about sledge hockey or find a team near you, drop us an email at or find us on Twitter (@SledgeHockey) or Facebook (search British Sledge Hockey).  Special thanks to Help For Heroes for their generous donation.

Newest Kids on the Block

Sheffield Steelkings [Photo courtesy of Paul Woollias]

Sheffield Steelkings [Photo courtesy of Paul Woollias]

On Friday evening, two sledge teams were invited to play a short demo game before an English Premier League (EPL) standing hockey game.

This isn’t unusual as teams quite often get invited to do things like this.  What was unusual was that one of the teams had never played in front of an audience before.

The Sheffield Steelkings are the newest sledge hockey team in the country and intend to take part in the 2015 Planet Ice League.  Friday night was  their big debut, and the first time they had a chance to show people how far they’d come in the short time they’d been together.

Kim McGreal, club chairman, was watching proudly from the bench: “Just six months ago, most of these players hadn’t even been on the ice, certainly not in a sledge.  They’ve been training hard every week, sometimes without a coach or an experienced player to help them, but they’ve carried on regardless.  For the first time on Friday, I truly saw a team, rather than a group of players, and that was the most amazing thing.”

With their brand new uniforms and logo also on display for the first time, the Steelkings were assisted by two other local players from the Kingston Kestrels, Matt Woollias and Matt Clarkson, who offered to come and help out.  Netminder Bryan Hackworth made his official Steelkings debut, although as a GB team member and experienced Kingston Kestrels player, this certainly wasn’t his first time playing.  Also on the ice, albeit on the opposing team, was Manchester Phoenix captain, Karl Nicholson, who’d been instrumental in helping get the team off the ground.

Dean Rhodes, one of the Steelkings players, loved his first experience: “I really enjoyed my ice sledge hockey debut. The thrills and spills left me wanting to play more games in the near future.”

So, congratulations to #20 Bryan Hackworth, #21 James Birchnall, #23 Ryan Lethbridge-Borden, #42 Liam Tingle, #44 David Scivill, #83 Barry Grayson and #86 Dean Rhodes.

You can follow the Steelkings on Twitter (@SteelkingsSH) or on Facebook (SheffieldSteelkings).  The Steelkings practice at IceSheffield on Friday nights from 6-7pm.  Email for more information.

International Sledge Hockey School at Silver Blades Ice Rink Widnes

On 16th-18th September 2014, Silver Blades Ice Rink Widnes will play host to the International Sledge Hockey School.

The Sledge Hockey School is designed to bring sledge hockey players of varying experience levels together with the best coaches, offering a great opportunity for players to learn new skills and share ideas. Players and coaches are coming from as far away as Norway, Croatia, Slovakia and Austria, and are being joined by a selection of British players. The event is being hosted by Silver Blades Ice Rink Widnes in participation with Halton Borough Council and coordinated by the British Sledge Hockey Association.

For participants, the event will involve sessions delivered by world class coaches and members of the Liverpool John Moores University Sports Science department, with additional support from the British Universities Ice Hockey Association.

The school opens on 16th September and there will be a GB vs The Rest of the World game in the evening. Silver Blades Ice Rink Widnes welcomes spectators to watch the game from 18:00 onwards and offers the use of stadium seating and cafe facilities.

For more information on the event please contact Anne Taylor at Silver Blades Widnes ( or Kim McGreal at British Sledge Hockey Association (

For more information on Silver Blades Widnes please go to or follow @icerinkwidnes on Twitter.

For more information on British Sledge Hockey please go to or follow @sledgehockey on Twitter.

Sledge Hockey Exhibition Games and Ice Buckets

Not really two things you’d assume go together, but for the Manchester Phoenix and Sheffield Steelkings teams, they’re inextricably linked!

Each year, the Manchester Phoenix Ice Hockey Team and the Sheffield Steeldogs Ice Hockey Team of the English premier League hold their own War of the Roses event before the regular season begins.  A firm fan favourite, both legs (one in Sheffield and one in Manchester) invariably sell out.

This year, they’ve invited the Steelkings and Phoenix Sledge Teams to give a demonstration of our sport before their big games – something we couldn’t be more excited to do.  In fact, for the Sheffield Steelkings, this is an even bigger event as it will be their first public appearance as a team, and the first chance for people to see their brand new shirts.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there.  We’ll let the Sheffield Steeldogs explain:

The ALS Ice Bucket challenge has become an internet phenomenon with people all over the world getting a soaking for charity. The ice hockey community has embraced it with Sidney Crosby setting an example that players and fans around the globe have followed.

With the gauntlet thrown down by the sledge hockey teams of Sheffield and Manchester, the coaches and owners of the Steeldogs and the Phoenix will be getting soaked at centre ice after the War of the Roses games.

This means fans from both sides who are at iceSheffield on Friday September 5th will be able to buy raffle tickets to win the chance of throwing the iced water over owner Shane Smith and player/coach Andre Payette.

50% of the money raised will go to the Sheffield sledge hockey team with 25% going to ALS and 25% to our charity of the year, Isabelle’s Appeal. This give fans a fabulous opportunity to ice Shane and Andre whilst supporting some great causes.

Manchester Phoenix have released a similar press release on their website and confirm that fans at their leg of the game on Sunday September 7th will have the opportunity to ice Neil Morris and Tony Hand.  The money raised in Manchester will be split with 50% going to the Motor Neurone Disease Association (the UK equivalent of ALS) and 50% going to the Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey Team.

So pick up your tickets for the events from Manchester Phoenix and Sheffield Steeldogs and get some bonus sledge hockey and ice buckets in the process!

2014 Planet Ice Sledge Hockey League Champions

Peterborough Phantoms: The 2015 Planet Ice League Champtions!

Peterborough Phantoms: The 2014 Planet Ice League Champions!

While the rest of the stats are being double-checked by our faithful statistician, we are pleased to announce that the Peterborough Phantoms are officially the 2014 Planet Ice Sledge Hockey League Champions!

After today’s decisive 7-3 win over Manchester Phoenix, the Phantoms held onto their lead at the top of the league table, with 5 wins and only 1 loss this season (ironically to Manchester Phoenix the last time the two of them met).

We’d also like to confirm that Gary Farmer doesn’t always pose for team photos without his shirt on – he’d  completed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge moments earlier!

Despite this being the last game of the season, don’t forget you can see all four teams next weekend at the playoffs, where Cardiff Devils and Manchester Phoenix will be playing in the 3rd/4th place game, and Peterborough Phantoms will face off against Kingston Kestrels to see who takes home the 2014 Playoff Trophy!

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