COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--As a leader in sport innovation, the National Hockey League, together with the Colorado Avalanche, USA Hockey and Athletica Sport Systems, today unveiled a revolutionary on-ice sled bench prototype, as a legacy of the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series.
The details of the Legacy initiative were unveiled at Sertich Ice Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado., this evening by NHL VP Hockey Development & Strategic Collaboration Kevin Westgarth, Colorado Avalanche Community Ambassador John-Michael Liles, USA Hockey Executive Director Pat Kelleher, Athletica Sport Systems' Reid Hart and members of the Warrior Avalanche, Colorado Sled Hockey and Colorado Springs Tigers Hockey teams.
The Legacy initiative investment includes the creation of the first-ever, on-ice player bench designed by Athletica Sport Systems to accommodate sled players of all levels - one that all partners believe will revolutionize the sled hockey environment in terms of safety and accessibility during game play. This prototype will be left behind along with a donation of new sleds and sticks in an effort to welcome newcomers to the sport. For the first time, sleds will be available for rent at the Sertich Ice Center for all members of the community. Colorado Springs Tigers Hockey will also receive 10 new sleds and sticks to bolster local programming.
U.S. National Sled Hockey Team captain Josh Pauls, who also served as a special ambassador for the NHL's Hockey is For Everyone campaign, was an eager and active voice during the creation and modification process with Athletica Sport Systems.
"Sled hockey is a game, not unlike its other forms, where speed, skating, and precision are key," said Pauls, who is currently playing in a two-game series in Canada and was unable to attend today's event. "While traditional benches are useable, they are far from optimal in providing a full hockey experience to participants. This new design of sled player benches has the potential to revolutionize the way the game is played in rinks across the world and provide a more inclusive experience for players that is also economically feasible for community rinks. Growing the game is the most important goal in our sport today and these new benches allow us to spread the game to more places and people."
"Hockey's glidepath toward greater inclusion is accelerated through social innovation," said Kim Davis, NHL Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. "With this legacy project, we identified a challenge faced by disabled athletes in sled hockey and designed an infrastructure solution intended to improve gameplay, safety and equity in the sport."
Liles, a former Avalanche defenseman and the Club's current Community Ambassador, said: "The Colorado Avalanche have a long history of supporting sled hockey programs as they were the first NHL Club to partner with a sled hockey program. As an organization, we are committed to making the sport accessible to youth and adults of all abilities. We appreciate and celebrate the efforts of the NHL and Athletica Sport Systems as through this Legacy Project, we are hopeful that many more athletes will be able to try and learn to play hockey."
"Through the passion and dedication of our grassroots volunteers across the country, disabled hockey continues to grow and today has six disciplines, including sled hockey," Kelleher said. "The NHL is a great partner in the game, and we applaud their efforts through this legacy project to contribute to helping advance the hockey experience for our sled players."
"We've been honored to play an integral part of this Legacy sled project from its inception," said Hart, Athletica Sales Manager. "Our innovative prototype design provides minimal invasiveness to the flow of the game while satisfying our objectives to provide a cost-effective, user-friendly and safer solution, enhancing the on-ice experience for all participants and the viewing experience for spectators."
The Legacy initiative is an ongoing philanthropic endeavor through which the League and the local Club support community organizations in the host city of an NHL Event. Since 2003, the League, its Clubs and partners have donated more than $6 million to communities across North America. Legacy projects have aided thousands of hospital patients in recovery; helped at-risk youth and families gain better access to educational and vocational training; and provided greater access to people of all ages to learn and play hockey.