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Friday, 13 July 2012

Capitalizing on Hockey: The Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League

Below is a little blurb I wrote for the Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League. The team is currently prepping for the North American Power Wheelchair Hockey Cup, set for August 3rd, and could use all the support they could get. Please go to www.opwhl.webs.com. if you are interested in helping out or donating, or just to find out more about what they do. Thanks!

Deep in the heart of Ottawa’s capital lays Canada’s best-kept secret sport: power wheelchair hockey. Participants in the sport, also sometimes called Electric Wheelchair Hockey, are of many different ability levels, but all share an interest in playing hockey. The game itself is played indoors, and resembles floor-hockey, differing only because the players use power wheelchairs. To accommodate for varying types of ability, player’s hockey sticks are either held by the player, or strapped to their chair, with a “tee bar” attached adjacently to the base of the stick, that makes carrying the ball possible.

The Ottawa Capitals, as our city’s power wheelchair hockey team is appropriately named, now have roughly 25 players, 10 of whom play competitively. They are the newest addition to The Canadian Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association (CEWHA), which consists of 7 leagues: 2 leagues in Toronto, 1 in London, Manitoba, Calgary, and Vancouver. Each league has 4 teams on average, with the Ottawa Capitals in their infancy and looking to grow.

The Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League (OPWHL) began just over 2 and a half years ago. A group of Ottawa friends met recreationally to play power wheelchair hockey on the weekends, when they realized they wanted to expand their interest. Shortly after, in 2009, founders Hollis Peirce and Kyle Vezzaro registered the group of players as a non-profit organization under Revenue Canada, and the team became an official division of the Canadian Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association.

According to the Canadian Electric Wheelchair Hockey website, the Canadian tournament is held every 2 years, in Toronto, London Manitoba, Calgary or Vancouver. During alternate years, there is a North American tournament, making competitive players part of either tournament annually. In August of 2010, the North American Power Hockey Cup was hosted by the Toronto Power Wheelchair Hockey League at Ryerson University. It was the first tournament attended by the Ottawa Capitals. This year the North American Power Hockey cup will be held here in the nation’s capital, at the Ottawa University campus.

The goal of the CEWHA, the umbrella association of the OPWHL, is to “provide a quality hockey program for all persons with disabilities who have limited upper body strength and/or mobility, who could significantly benefit from the use of an electric wheelchair in competitive sport and daily living.” (www.cewha.ca). Canada is not the only country with this mandate in mind for power wheelchair hockey players. The sport is also popular internationally, with power wheelchair hockey leagues all over Europe, and some of the top ranking teams in The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Germany and Italy.

For more information about the Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League, or to donate, please visit, www.opwhl.webs.com.

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