As hockey was beginning to grow in Vegas with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL, it was also evolving in the community with the creation of a youth sled hockey team.

The Vegas Golden Chariots, a coed youth sled hockey team, was formed with the purpose of delivering an inclusive opportunity for children with physical disabilities or able-bodied children with a desire to play a non-traditional form of hockey. It gives these kids the opportunity to be on a team, learn the game of hockey and be part of something bigger than themselves.

“We wanted to give our kids an opportunity to play sled hockey,” said Team President Chad Smith. “We reached out to the Vegas Golden Knights, and they helped put us in touch with people to create a 501(c)3 to operate our youth team. It’s incredible to see how its grown.”

After hearing that the Vegas Golden Chariots were looking for coaches, City Engineering Technician Tony Esposito decided to reach out and volunteer.

“I didn’t even need to make a decision,” Esposito said, “After the end of that first season, it was easy to commit to many more. It felt good helping out such a great cause. Sled hockey is a confidence builder for these kids. For many of them, it isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about getting the opportunity to be a part of a sports community.”

For Josh Muscari, one of the original members of the Golden Chariots, the team provided him a community and has fostered a love for hockey that he didn’t previously have. Josh has been with the team for six years now, although his role has changed from player to coach after he aged out of the team when he turned 20 years old.

“I knew I wanted to continue staying in touch with the team,” Muscari said. “I wanted to give some sort of inspiration to the younger players that once you age out, you can continue to give back and volunteer. It’s just a fun thing to do.”

Golden Chariots Head Coach Scott Chalmers got involved with the team after his son expressed interest in sled hockey. His son learned about the adaptive sport in 2017 after attending a CCSD paralympic night, a monthly event for disabled youth in Clark County in which they are introduced and learn of paralympic sports.

“I asked to come out and help as a coach,” Chalmers said. “After a few seasons of being an assistant coach, Tony thought I should be head coach since I was able to travel with the team and be at all the practices. Although I sometimes feel like a fish out of water since I didn’t grow up playing organized hockey, it’s been amazing to help coach these incredible kids.”

One of those incredible kids is Francis McCabe. Francis became a fan of hockey when the Golden Knights started. He wanted to learn to skate and play hockey but knew he would have to learn a bit differently due to being in a wheelchair. The answer was sled hockey.

“I love sled hockey,” said Francis. “I’ve learned a lot and my coaches have helped me get better. I’ve been playing for six years now and still have so much fun.”

The players, coaches, families and the board of the Vegas Golden Chariots credit the sports and local community for their success. From local families such as the Bartholomews, the Olivers and the Swansons to the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation and the Englestad Foundation, the team receives support in various forms including volunteers, ice time, travel expenses and purchases of sleds and equipment.

It’s only fair that this incredible community made up of various kind individuals was honored by the Vegas community. Esposito was recognized as the winner of the 2024 Mayor’s Award for Community Excellence. While he is in awe of this incredible honor, Esposito knows none of this would have happened without the community and the many people involved in the Golden Chariots.

“It takes a community to make this team work,” Esposito said.