MOSCOW, March 07. /ITAR-TASS/. Sledge hockey is the Paralympic version of ice hockey for athletes with disabled lower extremities. Instead of skates, the paralympians use special sledges with two runners, so that the puck slips in between. Athletes have a hockey stick in each hand. One of its ends is curved like in traditional hockey, while the other has metal teeth attached. The curved end is used to control the puck, to pass it or send to the goal, while teeth help athletes push and move around. Both sticks can be used for control of puck at once.
Sledge hockey is played with the modified rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation. No more than six players per team are allowed on the ground (including goalkeeper), total number of players in a team is fifteen. Each game comprises three fifteen-minute long periods. The aim, like in traditional ice hockey, is to send the puck to the opponent’s goal while retaining the own goal intact.
Sledge hockey was initiated by physically challenged people in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1961. There were a total of five Swedish teams by 1969. The first ever international match, between Sweden and Norway, took place the same year. A demonstrational match between two Swedish teams was held at the I Winter Paralympics in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, in 1976.
1981 -1993 saw emergence of national sledge hockey teams in Britain, Canada, US, Japan and Estonia but it was not until 1994 in Lillehammer that the discipline entered the Paralympic program. Six national teams partook in the first tournament where Sweden, the sledge hockey pioneer, took gold.
The US team is the actual Paralympic champion since it overwhelmed the Japanese team at 2:0 in Vancouver in 2010.
At the XI Winter Paralympics in Sochi sledge hockey gold will be claimed by eight teams. Competition will take place on March 8-15 in Shayba Arena. This will be the first Paralympic event for the Russian team that debuted in the 2012 world championships.
In the 2013 championship in South Korean city of Goyang, Russians took the bronze having left behind the Czech team (3:0).