What Is Sledge Hockey? – A Comprehensive Guide

Brandon McNally

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Sledge Hockey

Sledge hockey, often referred to as para-ice hockey, is a dynamic and inclusive sport that has captured the hearts of athletes and fans alike. 

Played on ice using specially designed sledges and sticks, it provides individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to experience the thrill of hockey while breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of sledge hockey, answering five frequently asked questions to help you gain a deeper understanding of this remarkable sport. So, stay sharp till the end. 

What Is Sledge Hockey?

Sledge hockey, also known as para ice hockey, is an adaptive sport designed for individuals with physical disabilities, particularly those who have lower limb impairments. It is played on an ice rink, and the rules closely resemble traditional ice hockey. 

However, instead of skates, players use specially designed sledges (sledges) with blades on the bottom. These sledges allow players to glide across the ice while using two hockey sticks with picks on the ends to propel themselves and handle the puck.

Sledge hockey provides people with disabilities the opportunity to experience the exhilaration and competitiveness of ice hockey. It is a highly physical and fast-paced sport, demanding both strength and agility. 

Sledge hockey has gained popularity worldwide, with organized leagues and international competitions, including the Paralympic Games. It promotes inclusivity and showcases the remarkable abilities of athletes who overcome physical challenges to participate in this exciting sport.

Sledge Ice Hockey Evolution

Sledge ice hockey, also known as para ice hockey, has a fascinating evolution that traces back to the mid-20th century. Here’s a brief overview of its development:

Origins (1960s)

Sledge ice hockey’s origins can be traced to Scandinavia in the 1960s, specifically in Sweden. It was initially created as a form of rehabilitation for individuals with physical impairments, particularly those with spinal cord injuries. 

The sport aimed to provide a recreational and competitive outlet for people with disabilities.

Early Adaptations

In the early days, players used makeshift equipment, including regular wheelchairs with blades attached to the bottom. Over time, specially designed sleds with two blades replaced wheelchairs, offering better stability and mobility on the ice.

International Recognition (1970s-1980s)

Sledge ice hockey gradually gained popularity and international recognition. The sport’s rules and regulations began to standardize, and it started to spread to other countries, including Canada and the United States.

Formation of Governing Bodies

As interest grew, governing bodies such as the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and national organizations took steps to formalize and organize sledge ice hockey competitions. This laid the foundation for the sport’s inclusion in the Paralympic Games.

Paralympic Debut (1994)

Sledge ice hockey made its debut as a demonstration sport at the 1994 Winter Paralympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It became an official Paralympic sport in 1998 during the Nagano Winter Paralympics.

Technological Advancements

Equipment continued to evolve, with sledges becoming more streamlined and efficient. The sticks used by players also saw improvements, with picks added to enhance manoeuvrability and puck handling.

Increasing Popularity

Sledge ice hockey has continued to grow in popularity, with more countries establishing national teams and youth development programs. It has become an important avenue for athletes with physical disabilities to excel in a highly competitive and physically demanding sport.

Today, sledge ice hockey is a widely recognized and respected Paralympic sport, showcasing the incredible abilities of athletes who overcome physical challenges to participate in the sport at the highest levels.

Essential Sledge Hockey Equipment

Essential Sledge Hockey Equipment

Sledge hockey, like traditional ice hockey, requires specific equipment to ensure safety and performance for players with physical disabilities. Here is a list of essential sledge hockey equipment:

Sledge (Sled)

The sledge is the central piece of equipment in sledge hockey. It is a specialized seat with blades on the bottom, which allows players to glide on the ice. Sledges come in various sizes and designs to accommodate different body types and preferences.


Players use two sticks, which are similar to traditional hockey sticks but adapted for sledge hockey. These sticks have metal picks on one end for pushing and maneuvering the sledge and a blade on the other end for handling the puck.


Sledge hockey pucks are made of hard rubber and are designed to slide smoothly on the ice. They are slightly larger and heavier than regular hockey pucks to ensure they stay on the ice and are easier to handle.


Safety is a top priority, so players wear helmets with full-face cages to protect their heads and face from injury. Helmets are mandatory in sledge hockey.


Players wear gloves with padding to protect their hands and provide a better grip on the sticks. The gloves are specially designed to accommodate the hand position required for sledge hockey.

Elbow and Shin Pads

Padding on the elbows and shins provides protection against collisions with other players, the boards, or the ice.

Shoulder Pads

Some players choose to wear shoulder pads for added protection, particularly if they anticipate physical contact during the game.

Protective Clothing

Players often wear padded pants or girdles to protect their hips and lower back. These provide additional cushioning during falls or collisions.

Jersey and Uniform

Players wear team jerseys and uniforms for identification and to comply with the rules of the game.


Some players use cleats or ice grippers to provide traction when pushing off the ice with their sledges. These can be essential for maintaining stability and speed.

Goalie Equipment

Goalies require additional specialized equipment, including a larger sledge with a reinforced frame, leg pads, chest protector, blocker, catcher glove, and a goalie mask with full face protection.

Team Sledge Hockey Bench

No personal equipment but essential for the game, the team sledge hockey bench is a designated area for players and coaches to sit during the game, located at the side of the rink.

Each of these pieces of equipment is vital for the safety and performance of sledge hockey players.

Rules of Sledge Hockey

Sledge hockey, also known as para ice hockey, follows rules similar to those of traditional ice hockey. 

However, there are specific adaptations and regulations to accommodate players with physical disabilities who use sledges to move on the ice. Here are the key rules of sledge hockey:

1. Equipment

Players must wear the required safety gear, including helmets with full-face cages, gloves, elbow pads, shin guards, and protective clothing. Goalies have additional equipment such as leg pads, a chest protector, and a goalie mask.

2. Sledges

Each player sits in a sledge, a specially designed seat with blades on the bottom for mobility. The sledges must conform to certain sizes and design specifications.

3. Sticks

Players use two sticks, one in each hand. The sticks have a pick on one end for pushing and a blade on the other end for shooting and passing.

4. Faceoffs

Faceoffs are used to start play after stoppages. The referee drops the puck between two opposing players, and they use their sticks to battle for possession.

5. Scoring

The objective is to score goals by shooting the puck into the opposing team’s net. The puck must completely cross the goal line to count as a goal.

6. Penalties

Penalties are called for various infractions, such as tripping, slashing, or checking. The penalized player must serve time in the penalty box, leading to a temporary advantage for the opposing team.

7. Icing

Icing rules are similar to traditional hockey, where a team is penalized for clearing the puck from behind their own blue line to the opposing end without it being touched by another player.

8. Offsides

Offside rules apply, meaning that attacking players cannot enter the offensive zone ahead of the puck.

9. Substitutions

Substitutions can occur on the fly, with players entering and leaving the ice from the designated substitution area.

10. Duration

Sledge hockey games typically consist of three 15-minute periods, with stoppages for penalties, goals, and other game-related events.

11. Overtime

In the event of a tied game, overtime periods may be played, usually with a sudden-death format until one team scores.

12. Paralympic Classification

Players are classified based on their level of physical impairment to ensure a level playing field. Teams must adhere to classification rules, including a minimum number of players with higher-level disabilities on the ice at all times.

Challenges of Playing Sledge Hockey

Playing sledge hockey presents unique challenges, particularly for individuals with physical disabilities who rely on sledges for mobility on the ice. 

These challenges can be both physical and logistical, but they are often overcome by dedicated athletes and the supportive sledge hockey community. Here are some of the challenges faced by those who play sledge hockey:

Mobility and Balance

Players must master the art of balancing on the sledge while using their upper body strength to propel themselves across the ice. This requires significant core and upper body strength and coordination.

Puck Handling

Controlling and handling the puck with the specially adapted sticks can be challenging, especially when players need to make precise passes and shots.

Speed and Agility

Sledge hockey is a fast-paced sport, and players need to be agile and quick in their movements, which can be physically demanding.

Physical Endurance

The game can be physically exhausting, as players use their arms to push themselves and must constantly maneuver on the ice.

Adaptation to Cold Conditions

Playing on ice rinks can be cold, and players need to adapt to the low temperatures, which can be particularly challenging for individuals with certain disabilities.

Travel and Accessibility

Traveling with the specialized equipment, including sledges, can be logistically challenging. Finding accessible facilities and accommodations at tournaments and events can also be a hurdle.


Sledge hockey equipment, especially sledges, sticks, and specialized protective gear, can be expensive. This can be a barrier for some individuals who wish to participate.

Classification and Fair Play

Ensuring fair play through player classification can be challenging, as players must be classified based on their disability level to create equitable teams.

Limited Opportunities

Access to sledge hockey programs and teams can be limited in some regions, making it difficult for interested individuals to participate.

Public Awareness

Raising awareness about sledge hockey and breaking down stereotypes about disabilities in sports can be challenging but is essential for the growth and inclusivity of the sport.

Despite these challenges, sledge hockey has grown in popularity and is played at various levels, from local leagues to the Paralympic Games.

Significance of the Sport, Sledge Hockey

Sledge hockey, also known as para ice hockey, holds significant importance in the world of sports and for individuals with physical disabilities for several reasons:


Sledge hockey is one of the most inclusive sports, allowing people with a wide range of physical disabilities to actively participate. It breaks down barriers and provides individuals with disabilities the opportunity to engage in a competitive team sport, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment.

Physical Rehabilitation

Sledge hockey can serve as a form of physical rehabilitation for individuals with mobility impairments. The sport helps improve upper body strength, balance, and overall fitness, contributing to better physical health and well-being.

Competitive Opportunities

Sledge hockey provides athletes with disabilities the chance to compete at various levels, from local leagues to international competitions like the Paralympic Games.

This exposure to high-level competition is crucial for the growth of adaptive sports and the recognition of athletes’ talents and achievements.

Inspiration and Role Models

Sledge hockey athletes serve as inspirational role models for people with disabilities, showcasing the determination, skill, and resilience needed to succeed in sports and life. Their achievements encourage others to pursue their goals and dreams.

Community and Camaraderie

The sledge hockey community is tight-knit and supportive. Players, coaches, and supporters create an environment that promotes teamwork, friendship, and a strong sense of camaraderie. This sense of community can have a positive impact on athletes’ mental and emotional well-being.

Awareness and Advocacy

Sledge hockey raises awareness about the capabilities and potential of individuals with disabilities. It challenges stereotypes and promotes the understanding that people with disabilities can excel in sports and other aspects of life.

Research and Innovation

The development of adaptive equipment for sledge hockey has led to advancements in technology and design that benefit people with disabilities in various fields, including mobility aids and assistive devices.

International Cooperation

Sledge hockey is played and celebrated around the world, fostering international cooperation and unity through sports. It provides a platform for athletes from diverse backgrounds to come together and compete on a global stage.

Legacy and Legacy Building

Successful sledge hockey programs and athletes leave a lasting legacy that encourages future generations of individuals with disabilities to get involved in sports. This legacy helps create a more inclusive and accepting society.

So, sledge hockey holds significant significance as an inclusive, empowering, and inspiring sport for individuals with physical disabilities.


What Is Sledge Hockey?

Sledge hockey, also known as para ice hockey, is an adaptive sport created for individuals with physical disabilities, particularly those with lower limb impairments. 

It closely follows the rules of traditional ice hockey but involves players sitting in sledges equipped with blades, using two sticks with picks and blades for mobility and puck control.

How Did Sledge Hockey Originate?

The origins of sledge hockey can be traced back to Sweden in the 1960s when it was initially developed as a form of rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries. Over the years, it evolved into a competitive sport and gained international recognition.

What Equipment Is Required for Sledge Hockey?

Sledge hockey demands specialized equipment, including sledges, sticks, protective gear, and helmets with full-face cages. Goalies have additional equipment like leg pads and chest protectors. Properly fitted gear is essential for safety and performance.

What Are the Rules of Sledge Hockey?

Sledge hockey shares many rules with traditional ice hockey but has adaptations to accommodate players with disabilities. These rules cover everything from faceoffs and penalties to player classification and the duration of the game.

Why Is Sledge Hockey Significant?

Sledge hockey is significant for its inclusivity, providing individuals with disabilities the chance to compete at various levels. It promotes physical rehabilitation, fosters a sense of community, and challenges stereotypes about what people with disabilities can achieve.

Wrapping Up

Sledge hockey is more than just a sport; it’s a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and determination. 

Through inclusivity, competition, and community, sledge hockey empowers individuals with physical disabilities to embrace their capabilities and inspires us all to break down barriers, on and off the ice. 

As we journey deeper into the world of sledge hockey in the following sections, you’ll discover the excitement, challenges, and inspiring stories that make this sport a truly remarkable endeavor. Thank you for supporting us. 

Photo of author

Brandon McNally

I have been playing hockey my whole life. I am currently a professional hockey player with the Calgary Flames. I am also a part time coach at the University of Calgary and the head coach of the Calgary Northstars Minor Hockey Association. I have always wanted to be an NHL player and I am very excited to be one! My hobbies are playing hockey, coaching, and spending time with my family. LinkedIn

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