The best para hockey players from across Canada will descend on the Vale Health and Wellness Centre from May 16 to 19 of this year. Photo Credit: Sledge Team Ontario.
The National Para Hockey Championships are heading to Port Colborne.
The best para hockey players from across Canada will descend on the Vale Health and Wellness Centre from May 16 to 19 of this year.
The Brock Niagara Penguins, in partnership with the Ontario Sledge Hockey Association, made the announcement Saturday in Port Colborne.
“On behalf of our community, I’m so proud to welcome the National Para Hockey Championships to Port Colborne this spring,” Mayor Bill Steele said. “This tournament embodies the power of inclusion, unity and passion for the game, and showcases the abilities of every athlete. We are thrilled to welcome the tournament to our Vale Health and Wellness Centre and are looking forward to a fantastic event.”
Steele was quick to point out the role hosting the 2018 Canada vs. USA sledge hockey game at the Vale Centre in 2018 helped pave the path toward this success story.
Niagara Centre Member of Parliament Vance Badeway recalled at Saturday’s press conference a statement he made in 2013 when the Vale Centre first opened.
“I stated that this will be the home to the next generation of inspiration,” Badeway said. “Today’s announcement that the Canadian Para Hockey Championship will be held here, in our state-of-the-art facility, is a testament to that statement. Players from across the country will inspire a nation, playing hard, with true grit that Canadian players continue to be known for internationally.”
Darren Cunliffe, President of the Ontario Sledge Hockey Association, predicts the level of competition coming to Port Colborne will be impressive.
“For anyone who has not seen the sport of sledge hockey played, especially at this level, I encourage you to bring your family and friends because it is absolutely unbelievable,” Cunliffe said.
“These men and women representing their provinces are probably in the top five per cent [of players] and are fighting for the top one per cent to represent their country at the Paralympics,
Cunliffe continued. “The Ontario Sledge Hockey Association is excited to be hosting the 2024 Canadian National Para Ice Hockey Championships in Port Colborne, Ontario.”
The tournament’s chair is Tim Dool, who says he fell in love with the sport a few years ago while watching the Niagara Thunderblades out of Port Colborne. The Thunderblades play under the Brock Niagara Penguins umbrella.
“The Canadian Para Ice Hockey Championships promise fun, exciting competition and social interaction shared by players, fans and the hockey community across Canada – a positive event for all,” Dool said.
The Brock Niagara Penguins is a sporting program for youth and young adults with a physical disability that offers swimming, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball and racing, hand-cycling, boccia and para hockey.
The Canadian Championships were held in Boucherville, Quebec last year and featured teams from seven provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
This year’s organizers are hoping all seven, if not more, will play in Port Colborne.
“The last time they were held in Ontario was 2019,” Cunliffe noted. “If this year’s event is anything like that, everyone who attends is in for a treat. There were multiple games that went single and double overtime and shootouts.”
Further information, including ticketing, will be announced in the coming weeks.
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.