Watertown's sled hockey player and her mom hope to grow the sport locally

·3 min read
Jacksyn Wirkus, back row left side, and Weston Brink; Keirra Rudebusch, front row left side, Kadynce Ohman, Keira Henman, Brynn Eitreim and David Johnson getting some ice time at the Watertown Ice Arena.
Jacksyn Wirkus, back row left side, and Weston Brink; Keirra Rudebusch, front row left side, Kadynce Ohman, Keira Henman, Brynn Eitreim and David Johnson getting some ice time at the Watertown Ice Arena.

Watertown loves hockey.

The fast-paced game of ice, sticks and a puck is so popular that the city is getting a new ice facility and a downtown park so visitors can skate and play.

Now, Watertown resident Meghan Brink wants to show young players in the area that hockey is not just for those who can stand on skates.

The Midwest Hockey Association finds ways for all to participate in the sport, even those not capable of safely traditional skating. This is made possible by using a sled that players sit in. The sled is pushed by a standing skater or can be propelled across the ice using modified, shortened hockey sticks.

When sled hockey was introduced to Watertown several seasons ago, Brink’s 12-year-old daughter Kadynce Ohman wanted to give it a try.

“It’s an adaptive sport designed for people who have physical limitations and cannot play stand-up hockey,” Brink said. “My daughter has ataxia caused by a rare metabolic disorder that qualified her to play sled hockey.”

Kadynce Ohman
Kadynce Ohman

Like many children introduced to the puck and ice, Ohman fell in love with hockey and has been actively playing sled hockey for the past three seasons.

All of the traditional hockey rules apply, and Ohman gets to play with other players, both those on skates and in sleds.

“Lucas Deutsch (the Watertown Lakers head coach) is gracious in including Kadynce so she can go out in her sled and get ice time with the stand-up players. The Watertown Hockey Association is wonderful in inclusion and understanding that hockey is for everyone. Just because she’s in a sled, she’s not any different than the stand-up players,” Brink said.

Ohman travels for scrimmages and tournaments where she plays with the Siouxland Lightning and other sled hockey players.

Her coaches help Kadynce Ohman gear up before heading onto the ice for a scrimmage.
Her coaches help Kadynce Ohman gear up before heading onto the ice for a scrimmage.

Now that the mother-daughter team has a few years of experience with sled hockey, they want to introduce the joys of the sport to others in the region.

“Kadynce has a couple of her friends that she’s in other adaptive sports with that have shown some interest,” said Brink. “If we bring this sport more to our area, I am hopeful that the local Special Olympics will come here and help me promote this.”

Ohman is currently the only sled hockey player in the area, but there is hope that with raising awareness, Watertown could have a sled hockey team of players ages 12 to 18. Brink has already been approached by parents who have children looking for adaptive sports options.

“A parent reached out to me whose son was recently diagnosed with epilepsy. They wanted to know more about sled hockey and if that might be something for him to enjoy. He is only 6years old,” she said.

Not only is sled hockey an opportunity for children with limited physical abilities to play, it also helps strengthen their bodies.

“Not all of the players have the arm mobility to push themselves around, so they have pushers installed on the back of their sleds, and a stand-up person can push them around the arena. They still use their sticks to hit the pucks,” Brink saud. “Toward the end of last season, Kadynce had enough arm strength she could move her sled using her sticks.”

The cost of hockey sleds ranges from $800 to thousands of dollars, but Siouxland Adaptive Sports ensures that skaters have access to sleds at no cost to the parent. A Challenged Athletes Foundation Grant helps provide sleds, and other grants can be obtained to provide small equipment like hockey bags and sticks.

“The first year is free. The second year, you only pay the standard hockey association fee of $45,” Brink said. “The cost to parents is very minimal. We supply the gear and the sleds, and if they decide they want to upgrade, they are free to do that.”

Those interested in learning more about sled hockey can contact Brink at 605-220-3394 or visit the local team’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/siouxlandsledhockey.

This article originally appeared on Watertown Public Opinion: Bringing adaptive sports to Watertown through the use of hockey sleds

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