A Para-ice hockey team made up of talented tier one players will represent Calgary Flames at the upcoming USA Hockey Sled Classic in St. Louis, it has been announced.
The non-profit PX3 AMP Sledge Hockey Academy has been endorsed by the Calgary Flames as its affiliate Para-ice hockey team at the event, taking place from November 21 to 24 and presented by the National Hockey League (NHL).
Since 2010, participating NHL teams have been sending an affiliated Para-ice hockey team to compete in the round-robin tournament.
The USA Hockey Sled Classic is one of the most prestigious adaptive hockey tournaments in the world, second only to the Paralympic Games.
"This is the first time in history that a tier one team from Canada will be attending the NHL Sled Classic," Brad Layzell, the founder of the PX3 AMP Hockey Academy, said.
"This is a major leap forward for sledge hockey in Calgary and will continue to open new opportunities for other adaptive athletes across the country."
The affiliate team roster was announced on October 30, when players, including former Humboldt Broncos player Ryan Straschnitzki, were presented with their official Calgary Flames jerseys before hitting the ice for practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Straschnitzki is a member of the PX3 AMP hockey team but is unavailable to compete in the USA Hockey Sled Classic due to previously scheduled surgeries.
He took up Para-ice hockey after he was injured when a semi-trailer truck went through stop signs and crashed into a bus carrying his junior hockey team - the Humboldt Broncos - in April last year.
The crash killed 16 of the team's players and staff and left Straschnitzki paralysed from the chest down.
"Unfortunately I won't make it this year but I'm going to get updates, so I'm pretty excited for everyone," Strachnitzki was reported as saying by The Canadian Press.
"I think it's a good step in the right direction for sledge hockey going around the nation.
“I'm pretty excited and these guys will do good in St Louis."
Straschnitzki's mentor, former national team member Chris Cederstrand, will be taking part as a player-coach.
Before being injured, Cederstrand played in the Western Hockey League for the Red Deer Rebels and Swift Current Broncos.
"We are very excited and honoured to support the PX3 AMP sledge hockey team and these athletes who will represent Calgary," Candice Goudie, the executive director of Calgary Flames Foundation, said.
"We're looking forward to cheering them on in St Louis in November."
To raise funds for their participation in the USA Hockey Sled Classic, the team will be hosting a corporate three-versus-three cross ice sledge challenge at WinSport in Calgary on Saturday (November 9).