These guys don’t play. Well, they don’t play games. At least not the ones that us average sports enthusiasts play. The USA Sled Hockey team hustles hard essentially 7 days of every week. From an 8:00 am skate to a follow-up weight room session, and even a personal gym session to polish off the day if they feel like a 3-a-day is warranted. An off-day is thrown in there from time to time, unless of course one of the many supportive families is visiting the team’s house to feed them home-cooked meals. Then the teammates must reconvene from their respective resting zones to welcome those awesome families that come to the rescue to fill the bellies of 17 very hungry athletes.It may sound like a lot of work and no play, but this team is all too familiar with the busy schedule that is set in place; a schedule like that of the USA team prior to the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi. By the way, 10 of the gold-medalists from Sochi are returning to the team this year in PyeongChang to get a second, third, and for some a fourth attempt at the gold! That’s right, this team catches very little time apart, so they can really cultivate the comradery the teammates need. Even though the USA Men’s Sled Hockey team takes leaps and bounds to prepare themselves for the games of their lives, having fun is always a priority. “Make your own fun, boys,” seems to be a ringing phrase repeated by the team’s coach, Guy Gosselin. He isn’t wrong. Each time anyone watches a practice or scrimmage you can see the competitiveness and joy that each player has, and how differently each person expresses their joy on the ice. But don’t get all warm and fuzzy just yet, they have their trials and tribulations with one another from time to time. It’s part of the process; trust the process, as they say.
Their top-tier performances in the 2017 World Sled Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and their win in the 2018 Turin Para Ice Hockey International Tournament show that something is working pretty damn well. Up until the Border Classic that took place in early January, the guys went undefeated (overall) and against one of their top competitors, Canada, and played the likes of Italy and Japan. Even if they went 1-1 against Canada in the Border Classic, which held games in Buffalo, New York and in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada the guys were still disappointed as their goal was to finish undefeated for the season. Overall, they finished 11-0-0-1, putting them in a key position going into these Winter Games with full confidence in their chemistry, but giving them just enough drive knowing they can be beat. One can only imagine that it will push them to the limit in PyeongChang, South Korea to win the gold for USA! Either way, we are watching anxiously as we barrel towards the start date of March 9th when the first game of the Winter Paralympics kicks off. Waiting in anticipation for their chance to show their stuff is the norm for some of the best sled hockey players in the world, but they are anything but normal from where the rest of us are sitting.