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Gritty welcomes youth and adult players to inaugural Sled National Championships

By Jason DeAlessi, 04/19/24, 10:00PM EDT


WEST CHESTER, Pa. - Everyone’s favorite NHL mascot made his way through Ice Line Arena Friday afternoon, greeting teams from across the nation in his world-renowned fashion. Nearly 1,000 players across nine divisions are competing at the event, the first-ever that will crown national champions Sunday morning.

“Sled and Warrior National Championships are new events offered by USA Hockey’s Disabled Section and have been received really well by our players,” explained Disabled Section Chair and Atlantic Affiliate Executive Vice President Maureen Thompson-Siegel. “Through partnership with NHL teams and programs across the country, we’re seeing participation in these disciplines explode, which has made these events successful.”

Competition has been at the forefront of the tournament, with numerous games going to a shootout in the initial rounds of pool play. To ensure continued growth of the discipline, there has been additional emphasis placed on sled hockey officiating development with coaches supporting local officials, many of whom are taking the ice for a sled game for the first time.

“We’ve done a lot of work preparing our officials in advance, and now that they’re on the ice we’re helping them develop an eye for the differences in the game,” said Atlantic Affiliate Tournament Officiating Director Tim Holtz. “They’re doing a great job out there so far, and we have a couple who are looking forward to officiating championship games later this weekend.”

Bringing together a thousand families takes months worth of planning between USA Hockey staff, rink staff and volunteers. “This event is the culmination of hours of collaboration,” said Intern, Disabled Hockey Delanie Baker. “To see the smiles on our youth players’ faces when Gritty arrived - that’s what all the work is for.”

Pool play continues Saturday, with semifinals beginning in the evening. Finals start early Sunday morning with the first national sled champions slated to be crowned.