For those in the Forest City who don’t think sledge hockey is intense, they haven’t been to the London Blizzards Sledge Hockey Tournament.
The 9th annual edition of the competition, held Jan. 25 to 27 at the Western Fair Sports Centre, stayed true to its slogan as the largest and longest running sledge tournament in North America.
With 34 teams consisting of a total of about 500 players in four different divisions coming from as far as Michigan to Alberta, it’s not a surprise the London hosted tournament is a big time event.
“Everyone who comes out here wants to win this one,” said Todd Sargeant, co-president of the London Blizzards and coach of the club’s Intermediate B team. “This is the biggest tournament around and we take a lot of pride in trying to win this one.”
Of the two London squads in the tourney, one in the Intermediate B division and the other in sledge development, neither could come away with gold.
Sargeant’s team walked away with silver after losing 1-0 to the Elmvale Bears in the finale in a game befitting for a finish of the tournament.
The championship game had everything the tourney and players competing represent.
Blizzards Cam Sinclair carved the ice with his sled and teammate Jim Law crashed into other players with no regard. The squad’s goaltender Chris Wood flashed just about everything to block the puck and when he made a spectacular save the opposing netminder, Jesse Hubbert, would tap his stick on the ice to show his appreciation for a good save.
“Sledge is a very, very intense sport. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you’re confined to a wheel chair and your home playing on a computer all day,” Wood said. “We’re athletes, we train, go to the gym and we come out and play hard.”
The loss in the championship game keeps the Blizzard on a gold-less streak after only collecting silver and a bronze over the course of the tourney.
But, there’s always next year.
“It doesn’t feel good today but I think we’ll take it with a grain of salt knowing we worked really hard and improved a lot,” said Lane Sargeant, Todd’s son who has been involved with the Blizzards inception 16 years ago. “I think it’s a little more personal than some other sports because you do know a lot of the other guys, so it’s pretty easy to get your hate on because you get the, ‘you again,’ moments.”
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