Opinion: Hockey Canada's mistreatment of it's Para Ice hockey program forces the Canadian Womens Para Ice Hockey team to look elsewhere for Sponsorship

Brett Thomas Wills
January 14, 2023  (10:56)

Para ice Hockey formerly known as Sledge Hockey or Sled Hockey to our cousins to the south governed by USA Hockey has been part of the Paralympic movement since its inception in 1994 and while Hockey Canada didn't take ownership of Sledge Hockey and their subsidiaries until 2004, the program at an international level has experienced the highest of highs along with the lowest of lows.

I've always had difficulties understanding the direction Hockey Canada was taking our Para Ice Hockey team. On the surface, when it was decided that Sledge Hockey of Canada would no longer exist and the program would now be run by what I believed was the most powerful hockey federation at the time, I was ecstatic. I thought this meant many Gold medal victories at Paralympic games & World Championships, I quickly learned I was mistaken.
Like itchy and Scratchy or Tom and Jerry, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada were tasked to play a game of cat and mouse to see which program would be able to remain one step ahead(pardon the pun) of the other.
In my opinion, when USA Hockey took ownership of their Para Ice Hockey program in 2006 is when Hockey Canada felt obligated to become more serious about their program, this resulted in Canada's only gold medal to date at a Paralympic Winter Games. Conversely, USA Hockey has captured five in their history including four straight from 2010-2022.
USA Hockey also backs the men's counterpart in Para Ice Hockey, the womens program. What sort of funding they receive and how they are supported are relatively unknown, but before the pandemic they had been afforded the opportunity to participate in multiple training camps over a twelve month period, presumably paid at least in part by USA Hockey.
The Canadian Womens Para Ice hockey team is not funded by hockey Canada. The players, staff and the programs executives are tasked with raising money to afford to go to camps & play in tournaments either in Canada or elsewhere.
Hockey Canada's budget for the mens Para Ice Hockey program averaged approximately $1.05 Million over the last four years, yet the women who asked the organization just to borrow jerseys had ones with name bars sent to them which were required to be removed and their own name bars to be stitched on upon arrival.
Equity & Equality in hockey has always been a major issue, but in 2023 it should be on its way to change.
Tara Chisolm, Derek Whitson & the rest of the Womens Para Hockey of Canada staff started a national campaign in late 2022 called #SticksIn. The aim of the campaign is to find corporate sponsors to invest in system changes so for the first time in history, the Womens Para Ice Hockey program is fully funded. To date, Canadian Tire has expressed interest in helping grow the game.
For more information visit, www.sticksin.ca
Coming from a guy who's played Para Ice Hockey for over thirty years, it's about time we invest in growing the game in all ways.
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