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Friday, September 17, 2010


Sled hockey's novelty is both its blessing and its curse.  I have probably talked to over 100 people who have never heard of sled hockey.  I explain what it is, and I get a number of reactions.  

Several people have said things like, "Wow, I never knew that existed."  It can peak interest from people who might otherwise dismiss something more mundane such as a new soccer or baseball team.  Learning about sled hockey makes people think they know a secret, like they're in the know.  Not only does it get their attention, but the novelty can also make them allies in spreading the word.  

I've had a lot of people say, "Can I come out and play, even if I'm not disabled?"  or "My cousin was in a car accident two years ago.  Do you think he's disabled enough to be on your team."

The day before our last clinic, I talked with a family who had a teenage son in a wheelchair.  They seemed interested in coming and trying the sport.  But the mom dropped a clinker.  "You don't want my son to come out.  He has violent tendencies."  I tried to keep a deadpan face as I replied, "It's hockey.  We'll put him on offense."  They came out and he had a great time getting out on the ice for the first time in his life.

I have also encountered a number of negative reactions due to sled hockey's novelty.  

For instance, I took flyers to a physical therapy office a few month back and tried to explain the sport to the receptionist behind the desk.  The receptionist said, "Well, I'm from Wisconsin where hockey is big, and I've never heard of sled hockey."  He dismissed me and refused to take any flyers for his office.

Others have dismissed it as a fad sport.  Some don't want to get involved in a sport that could dry up and blow away (in their eyes, anyway) in a year or two while supporters are left holding a big bill from an ice rink and some used, sweaty elbow pads to occupy the free space in their garage.  They wave their hands, and with a simple, "No thanks," they dismiss us. 

It behooves us to not dismiss such people as quickly as they dismiss us.  When I was passing out flyers for our very first clinic, I gave them to co-workers saying, "If you know anyone in your family or circle of friends who is disabled, please tell them about this clinic."  Many co-workers were excited, while others probably took the flyers out of obligation.

One co-worker, however, said, "I don't have any friends.  Don't give me any flyers."  She was fairly rude and short when she said this, and I was taken aback about it.

When we did our next clinic, I was casually discussing our efforts in getting the word out before a meeting.  This same co-worker said, "Sled hockey?  Wow!  I've never heard of it!  I'm impressed.  Give me some flyers, because I know plenty of people I can invite."  I tried not to be smug as I handed her a stack of flyers.  "Welcome to the light side.  May the force be with you," I thought to myself.  

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