Para Ice Hockey: Sports of the Paralympic Winter Games


Para Ice Hockey is an ice sport where athletes with physical impairments in the lower parts of their body use sticks to hit a rubber puck into their opponent’s goal. It’s fast, physical and fun. Para ice hockey was invented in the 1960s by three Swedes looking to continue playing ice hockey with physical impairments. The sport was a hit and countries began to develop teams in the decades that followed. In 1994, Para ice hockey became an official event at the Lillehammer Paralympic Winter Games. The top powers in Para ice hockey are Norway, Canada and the USA. Para ice hockey rinks are similar to ice hockey rinks, but are converted to be accessible for Para ice hockey players. They are 60m long and 30m wide surrounded by a wall called “boards” that keeps the puck in play at all times. A red centre line divides the field in half, while two blue lines separate the ice into three zones: a neutral zone and two end zones. There are nine face-off spots including one in the centre of the rink. Goals stand at opposite ends of the ice. Para ice hockey and ice hockey are played with the same type of rubber puck, but use different equipment. A sledge consists of a seat connected to a frame of aluminium, steel or other material with a minimum length of 80cm and a maximum height of 20cm between the bottom of the seat and the ice. Beneath the seat are one or two blades which are 16 to 32cm long. Athletes are strapped tightly to their sledges ensuring a comfortable and secure position. Para ice hockey players use two sticks while on the ice. At one end is a hooked, wooden blade similar to a standard hockey stick. This is used for handling and shooting the puck. The other end has a metal pick used to propel and manoeuvre the sledges around the ice. Therefore, with a quick flick of the wrist, players are able to propel themselves using the spikes and then play the puck using the blade-end of the sticks. Protective gear allows players to be physical without getting seriously injured, as in able-bodied hockey. Each team has 13 players and two goaltenders, but only six players can be on the ice at a time. Three forwards, two defencemen and a goalie. A team works together by passing the puck back and forth until someone has a clear shot at the goal. Play continues up and down the ice until a goal is scored, a penalty is called, or there are any other stoppages in play. A face-off is held after a goal is scored, and play resumes. Para ice hockey games are split into three 15-minute periods. Teams are awarded one point for every goal scored. At the end of three 15-minute periods, the team with the most goals wins. If the score is tied at the end of the third period, a tie-breaker period called “sudden death” is played until one team scores a goal or a shootout series is held. Para ice hockey is an adrenaline-filled game played with great speed and accuracy. The action doesn’t stop in this fast and thrilling Paralympic event!

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