While the Trail Memorial Centre is providing an adequate base for the national sledge hockey team’s selection camp, it just doesn’t quite fit the bill for a World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
The World Sledge Hockey Challenge is a premiere four-team event in which Canada hosts teams from the U.S., Norway, and Japan. The inaugural event was held in Kelowna in 2007, and has since seen stops in Charlottetown, P.E.I., London, Ont. and the last two in Calgary.
With the runaway success of the Junior A Challenge in 2007, a similar opportunity seemed likely with Team Canada’s sledge hockey team. Unfortunately, before a game could be played in the Silver City, the Cominco Arena would need special modifications before deemed suitable for play by Hockey Canada, and that just isn’t in the cards.
“For sledge hockey specifically, the main thing you’d have to work on is the accessibility of the bench areas,” said Team Canada manager Adam Crockatt. “We wouldn’t bring the International game here without the players being able to come in and out of the benches.”
Coincidentally it was one of the first things that Robert Baker, assistant director of Trail Parks and Rec, looked into upon taking the position last year. Baker had worked with the Olympic sledge hockey facility in Vancouver 2010 before his move to Trail.
“An engineer came in and took a look at what we’d have to do (at the Cominco Arena) and the cost was more or less $200,000 in order to modify the concrete structures of the penalty boxes in order to actually do something,” said Baker. “I think it’s safe to say, ‘that no we just can’t do it.’”
The arena was definitely built to last, with concrete providing the foundation that rises about eight inches above the ice surface, and the base for the benches and where the coaches stand.
“They’d have to reinforce the entire concrete and seating structure for the area, and it (the cost) was just astronomical.”
According to the Hockey Canada’s sledge hockey arena guidelines, the lip of the bench and penalty area entrance should ideally be level with the ice, with a maximum height of three-quarters of an inch, rather than the eight inches or so at the Cominco Arena. The boards would have to be replaced by plexi-glass and the requisite bench door measure three-feet wide for easy access and mobility, while the players bench guidelines recommend an area at least six feet deep, a far cry from the relatively cramped quarters on the benches at the Trail Memorial Centre.
“Outside of that, the facility itself is pretty accessible, in terms of the dressing rooms, and that kind of thing, but the playing area would definitely need to be made accessible for sledge hockey,” said Crockatt.
For the time being, sledge fans will have to be happy with current national training camp that returns to the ice today after a trip to soak in the soothing waters at the Ainsworth Hot Springs Wednesday.
“We’d love to come back, we’ve been treated very well both times we’ve been here, and we’d love to see Trail host a sledge hockey event some day down the road,” added Crockatt.
Today the team practices from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Spud Shack will be open for lunch and the players interacting with students from area schools.
Friday, the team is scheduled to practice from 11:15 to 1:15 and will be special guests at the Trail Smoke Eaters game against Victoria, at 7:30 p.m. Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult.
This year’s Sledge Hockey Challenge will take to the ice again in Calgary at the Markin MacPhail Centre Dec. 2 to 8.