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Team Jigger sledge hockey program returns and expands

The Team Jigger Sledge Hockey Program is expanding in a big way as more local athletes sign on. (Photo submitted)

Team Jigger Sledge Hockey is getting bigger and better than ever as more athletes across the region sign on to the program.

“It’s become almost a full-time job but I love it — I’ve been a hockey guy my whole life,” said Ray Wasdal, Team Jigger board director and Central Alberta Sledge Hockey Program coordinator.

He said he is inspired by the players’ perseverance, dedication, and commitment to the sport.

Launching in 2021, the program expanded beyond the Lacombe arena to include more ice times at the Eagle Builders Centre in Blackfalds in 2022, and now in Red Deer’s G.H. Dawe Community Centre as of last fall.

Since day one, the response to the program has been tremendous, said Wasdal, adding that the plan moving forward is to continue to grow sledge hockey across other Central Alberta communities.

Various programs are offered as a means to showcase the sport, and attract more people to it, he said.

“Also, if anyone is interested in sponsoring it, we will plan try-out sessions for a company or an organization, and if they want to kick in a little bit of sponsorship money, we will show them a pretty good evening,” he said.

Meanwhile, the program opens an exciting door for those experiencing paraplegia, mobility issues, degenerative conditions, amputation, or coordination issues, said Wasdal.

No matter their circumstance, the commitment of the athletes is a joy to see, he added.

Looking ahead, Wasdal said this season features a junior-specific program at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre in Red Deer that has already seen remarkable participation in the first few months.

“We supply the primary equipment (sledges and sticks) for all our junior players, plus protective equipment in the event a participant cannot provide their own,” he explained.

“Because the kids come from a variety of backgrounds and abilities, we’re all set up for them to try sledge hockey at little to no cost to the parents.”

Sessions run at the G.H. Dawe Centre on Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. (Feb. 22, 29, and March 7, 14, 21 and 28).

“Our focus this season is definitely in establishing and growing a junior program, but people of all ages are invited to check it out,” said Wasdal, noting that ice times in three Central Alberta communities provide options for participation.

Meanwhile, Wasdal pointed out that sledge hockey protective equipment requirements are similar to regular hockey.

Players must wear helmets with a cage, neck protectors, gloves, and elbow pads.

Shoulder pads and shin pads are not mandatory, but they become necessary as a player’s skill level increases, he said.

Here’s how it all works — instead of lacing up skates, players are seated and strapped into an adjustable sled (or sledge) with a bumper at the front and blades under the seat.

Players then use two sticks in tandem — one end is bladed for the left or right and is used to handle the puck, pass, or shoot.

On the butt end of the sticks are ice picks, used to propel players around the ice.

Ultimately, it’s an exciting venture to take part in and enjoy as a spectator. And the program is supported by the community at large in many ways as well, said Wasdal.

“With supporters like Hockey Alberta and their Every Kid Every Community Program, the Red Deer & District Community Foundation, the Lacombe Kinsmen, and local businesses like Blindman Brewing, we’re able to keep our ice time and equipment costs minimal.”

As mentioned, the foundation has developed a sponsorship package for corporations, individuals, families, or any type of organization to contribute.

“Every amount helps to ensure accessibility, from the purchase and maintenance of equipment and off-setting of registration, insurance, and ice times to keep the program as affordable as possible for participants,” said Wasdal, emphasizing the sport can be enjoyed by everybody.

It also falls in line with Team Jigger’s overall vision of providing tools and resources necessary for everyone to live and function without barriers, he said.

Wasdal also noted that it takes a community to ensure access and inclusivity are available for all.

That group includes Hockey Alberta, the Paralympic Sport Association, and many individuals who have sledge hockey experience through other organizations who lend their time and talents to bring hockey to everyone, he said.

Established by Jason (Jigger) Lunn, the Team Jigger Foundation is a Lacombe-based not-for-profit organization that provides rehabilitation services and state-of-the-art neuro-rehabilitation equipment for individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries or associated disorders.

For more information about the Team Jigger Sledge Hockey program, call Ray Wasdal at 403-318-3623 or email him at

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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