Kids who wouldn’t be able to play hockey are getting the chance to do so thanks to a new program in Winnipeg.
Volt Hockey is starting up in Winnipeg and gives kids living with disabilities the chance to try the sport that so many Canadians love.
It is played three-on-three in a gymnasium using motorized chairs that can go up to 14 kilometres an hour. The chairs have a blade on the end and the sport uses a whiffle ball.
“It’s a way of getting kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to play hockey, not only get to experience playing hockey but also being able to be part of a team,” said Jeff Liba, the CEO of Variety Manitoba.
Variety Manitoba is giving kids the chance to try the sport by offering free two-hour sessions every Sunday at the Dakota Community Centre Fieldhouse, with the hopes of getting enough kids to join to create teams throughout the city.
“From a pure recreation point of view, certainly there are not enough opportunities for people living with disabilities to engage in recreation activities in our community or any community across the country.”
Liba noted beyond having a sport to play, it can help teach kids so many life skills.
“Being part of a team, and learning and growing and making friends. All the kids are kids that would, unfortunately, not have a high likelihood of being able to play any other sport or join a team. So all of that stuff is just wonderful character building.”
The sport has seen success in Canada, with teams in Alberta and Ontario, as well as in Brandon, with a program starting up last year.
Chad Wallin, the co-founder of Westman Volt Hockey, said he brought the sport to the province as a way to help his son get involved in playing sports.
“We’re currently in the middle of our second year here in Brandon and the program has grown,” said Wallin. “We feel we have a pretty good handle on the sport itself and we’re almost up to 30 participants.”
Wallin said the game has been great for the kids involved but also their parents.
“As a parent, you always want your child to feel involved and to be part of something and so the sense of relief on a lot of parents of the participants’ faces is tremendous. They finally have a community or a sport where they can participate.”
The team found immediate success as they were crowned national champions at a tournament in Ontario.
Wallin is excited there will be teams in Winnipeg as it will lead to more opportunities for games.
“I think the goal was always to have (teams) in Winnipeg at some point…So we’re really happy for them. We’re happy to work with them and to help each other out as we both learn the game and see what other kinds of opportunities that are out there for us.”
In Winnipeg, there has already been one free session with eight kids attending.
Liba hopes more will continue to show.
“We’re looking for kids at eight years of age or older who are living with some form of permanent disability and getting them to come out and try out the VOLT chairs, which are super cool.”
Along with more players, Liba said they are also looking for more volunteers to help organize and coach games as well.
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