Growing sledge hockey was the goal on Saturday with a big youth workshop held at the Multiplex.
Eager to impress — and very much successful — celebrity coach for the event, Tyler McGregor, was spotted on the ice a half hour early warming up.
McGregor is assistant captain for Team Canada’s Paralympic men’s sledge hockey team, but he is also quite the competitor. He took gold at the 2013 World Sledge Hockey Championship and bronze at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
Returning home from South Korea where he was preparing for the 2018 Winter Paralympics, McGregor was in town on Saturday to teach basic shooting, passing and skating techniques — and to generate interest.
“The sport has evolved so much over the past two years,” McGregor said.
“It’s important to expose people to the sport. Everyone who comes and tries it out understands and appreciates how difficult it is.”
Sledge hockey is being brought to the community’s attention at the moment thanks to YK Sled Dogs. The initiative and its partners received more than $15,000 in funding from the Canadian Tire JumpStart program to foster and grow participation.
Sharon Oldford, community support co-ordinator for YK Sled Dogs, said the funding and partners, like Hockey Canada, have helped the sport grow.
“I think Yellowknife is open to so many different options and everyone is willing to try something different,” said Oldford.
“Our goal is to provide a family, sledge hockey group as well as an adult league, which would be a little more fast paced game.”
McGregor, whose first trip to Yellowknife to teach was in 2011 with other members of Team Canada, said the Oldford family and Hockey North were to thank for bringing him here and deserved some praise for helping to grow the game.
“They’ve worked incredibly hard to grow a program out here,” said McGregor. “I’ve only been playing sledge (hockey) for about seven years but it’s amazing to see how the sport has developed over that time.”
Enjoying the workshop, Nolan Dusome, 9, said sledge hockey was something very different but he really enjoyed being out on the ice alongside McGregor.
“It’s fun, you only have to shoot with one hand and you don’t even need skates,” he said. “Tyler is awesome. In the dressing room, I’m sitting beside him.”
Dusome said he wants to be an Olympian one day, just like McGregor.