Boy, 12, overcomes limited mobility and inspires friends to form sledge hockey team – North

Riley Oldford was once the only kid in Yellowknife, N.W.T., who played hockey sitting down.

While his peers tied their skates ahead of a game, the small, fair-haired 12-year-old would put aside the walker he uses to get around and strap into a seated sled, one usually used for sledge hockey.

Born with cerebral palsy, as well as a connective tissue disorder and chronic lung disease, Oldford has limited mobility. So in 2011, his parents bought him a sled to allow him to play hockey with his friends.

Ever since, Oldford has propelled himself around the ice using his arms and two sticks, while his teammates skated, upright, alongside him.

But others became curious about his unique way of playing the game. After encouraging friend after friend to try out his sled, Oldford has now inspired the formation of Yellowknife’s first sledge hockey team.

About a dozen players took part in the team’s debut tournament game this month at the local arena, known as the Multiplex. That’s more than half of the 20 or so players who regularly rotate through the practices.

Parents help strap their kids into sleds and carry them out onto the ice, just as Oldford’s parents have always done for him.

Now they all look like him on the ice, even though his teammates don’t have physical disabilities.

More than 20 kids rotate through the weekly practices. (Sarah Bridge/CBC)

Liam Leonard, 11, was among the first to buy his own sled in order to play with Oldford.

He says the decision was about helping his friend, but adds that Oldford has “done a really great job of making it fun” for the other players.

Leonard still plays “stand-up” hockey, but says this new sport allows him to “get out on the ice a bit more often,” and provides his arms with “a good workout.”

Unlike Leonard, most of the players don’t own their sleds; the arena now stores a pile of them that have been paid for through fundraising efforts.

Great option for non-skaters

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