Ice arena to host sled hockey camp
When the National Ability Center (NAC) introduced the sport of sled hockey in
March of this year, they were in no way prepared for what was about to happen.
Starting with just a Saturday recreation program, a recreation program in Ogden and a partnership with the Utah-based Golden Eagles sled hockey team, they were looking to start a respectable following for the sport within the state. Soon, NAC program director Lauren Artesani was overwhelmed with interest.
"Ten people would register and 20 would show up for the rec program," Artesani said. "It was so amazing how much people loved it."
So much, in fact, that she estimates there was 100-percent growth in the number of people interested in the sport. She attributes the popularity to the team nature of the sport. Unlike many of the sports that the NAC offers, sled hockey allows people to play together rather than individually. She said she saw many of the participants in the NAC ski programs make the transition in their free time. It’s also a sport for the disabled as well as the able bodied, since everyone must sit in a sled to play. That means family and friends can play together regardless of ability level.
"It’s really fun for families to come out," Artesani said.
Much like its able-bodied counterpart, sled hockey is also very physical. Artesani thinks it’s the challenge and the aggressive nature of the sport that has also allowed the sport to explode.
In order to serve the ever-expanding interest, Artesani finally decided it was time to offer an official sled hockey camp to give some intense instruction and support from some of the leaders in the sport. The sled hockey camp, which will take place Friday and Saturday at the Park City Ice Arena, is designed to accommodate all ages and abilities.
The NAC has invited Keith Blase, U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey coach in Turin, to lead the two-day camp. Blase has led the U.S. team for the past three years and brings a wealth of experience to the camp. He will be joined by Tom Brake of New Jersey, the U.S. national coach for the 20-and-under sled hockey team. Artesani said that the coaches will try to meet the skill levels and needs of all the participants.
"He [Blase] will assess everyone’s skills and target his instruction based on that," Artesani said.
The camp should also benefit the NAC Golden Eagles’ team. Artesani said that in the last year, head coach Jim Weeks has been able to take the team to the next level with increased ice and practice time, exposition appearances and a focused team attitude
Last week, the team took second place in a tournament in Phoenix, Ariz., a feat that Artesani says never would have been possible a few years ago. She said that this year, the team has become so popular that they had to hold team tryouts and turn many players away.
"I think the camp will be really helpful for them," Artesani said. "A few players have been on the national team, so they’ve had elite-level instruction, but never in their backyard."
Artesani expects people in Park City and Ogden will take part in the camp. The NAC also recently added a Salt Lake program and she hopes to see a fair amount of new faces make the trip up the canyon as well.
The NAC will provide sleds, helmets and sticks for all who attend. The camp will also include an overnight stay, so meals and lodging are included in the $150 registration fee.
The NAC sled hockey recreation program is held every Saturday morning from 10-11 a.m. and all of the public is welcome.
For more information on the camp or sled hockey program, contact Artesani at 200-0981 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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