Ashwaubenon hosts first-of-its-kind Women’s Para Ice Challenge
ASHWAUBENON, Wis. (WBAY) - Top women athletes from around the world are in the Green Bay area this weekend for a first-of-its-kind event, playing para ice hockey at the Cornerstone Community Center in hopes of bringing the sport to the Winter Paralympics.
Four teams are participating -- United States, Canada, Great Britain, and a world team -- in the first sanctioned tournament for the Women’s Para Ice Hockey Challenge.
The three-day tournament brought at least 60 athletes.
“There’s a lot of work to get the teams off the ground. Obviously, we have more established teams in USA and Canada. Great Britain literally started a team from the ground up more recently. They’re running about six months into their women’s program. And then we have the combined world team, which has athletes from Sweden, Latvia, Finland, etc.,” Emma Poynton, chairwoman of the para ice hockey challenge.
“I saw a post over Facebook last summer, saying we need -- Do you want to try the sport? Trying to get more people into it. So I went and tried it. I’ve been playing ever since,” Emily McLean, a member of the British team, said.
For those who aren’t familiar with para ice hockey, which is also called sled hockey, each player uses metal sledges fitted with two skate blades and they have two shortened hockey sticks.
Organizers tell us their goal is to grow the sport to another level.
“We are starting with the women’s world challenge for the year 2022, 2023, and 2024, which will lead us to our world championship, and hopefully this will be able to transform into spot to the program for the paralympic winter games, so we’re talking 2030 for that,” World Para Ice Hockey sports manager Michelle LaFlamme said.
Reaching the Winter Paralympic games will bring a dream in to a reality for some of the players.
“To be able to compete in the paralympics as a woman, it would mean everything,” Caroline Persson, a member of the Swedish team, said.
Any girl that may be watching and is interested in para ice hockey, players say just give it a try.
“There’s no harm in just going and having a go. Then you can see if you like it. See if you want to carry on playing it and see how well that you can do as a person like within the sport,” McLean said.
Admission is free for anyone interested in attending the games Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The schedule is on the Cornerstone Community Center website.
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