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Exploring Paralympic sports: ice sled hockey

A lot of international attention has been on the traditional events held during the Winter Olympics this year, like skiing, snowboarding and hockey. But few people realize there are many intriguing sports in the Paralympic Games too. The Paralympics was founded to enable athletes with one or more disabilities to compete in a sport at the highest levels. One of the toughest is the fast-paced game of sled hockey. If you aren't aware of what this sport entails, here are a few facts that will explain who can participate and how it's played:

Who is eligible to play sled hockey?
Sled hockey is a Paralympic sport that is open to athletes with a variety of limitations.  Players generally include amputees and people with spinal cord injuries and spina bifida. However, athletes who deal with permanent disabilities that limit their participation in traditional hockey  can compete as well. It should be noted that non-disabled players can participate in most levels of sanctioned games. The highest-levels of competition, like world-wide events or the Olympics, are reserved for those with mobile disabilities.

How is it played?
The game holds much of the same rules as stand-up hockey and consists of three periods, 15 minutes each. Team tries to outscore their opponent by passing and shooting a puck across the ice and into the other team's goal. Just like traditional hockey, each team tries to prevent the other from scoring. No more than six players, including the goalie, are allowed on the ice. If a penalty occurs, there will be fewer. You have two sticks you can use. Players are allowed to utilize both sticks to pass or shoot the puck. 

Equipment
A lot of sled-hockey equipment needs to be adapted to the players' needs. Traditionally, these athletes ride on double-blade sledges that act as replacements for skates. Sleds are made of light-weight aluminum and feature a seat known as the bucket. Depending on the extent of the athlete's disability, a backrest can be added. The players use specially-designed sticks that have a spike end and a blade end. They flip these sticks with a turn of the wrist to transition from movement on the ice with the spiked end to shooting for a goal with the blade. The sticks, which are made of wood, aluminum or a composite alloy material, can be as long as 100 centimeters but usually range from 75 to 95 centimeters. Players are also provided with a set of hockey helmets, gloves and traditional padding.

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