The Vermont State Amateur Hockey Association held its inaugural sled hockey state championship tournament over the weekend at the Memorial Sports Center in Middlebury. The Central Vermont Pioneers, the Vermont Sled Cats and the Twin-State Ice Vets tangled for state bragging rights in the two-day, VSAHA-sanctioned tournament. The Middlebury Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA), the Friends of Middlebury Hockey (FOMH), and the Town of Middlebury served as this year's hosts.
In the championship game Sunday afternoon, The Vermont Sled Cats beat the Central Vermont Pioneers, 1-0 on Brian Bathalon's second period goal.
Sled hockey is the adapted version of stand-up ice hockey. Persons who play sled hockey generally have some of form of physical impairment which otherwise would prohibit the individual from competing in stand-up hockey. Since its creation in the early 1960s by Swedish war veterans who wished to continue playing competitive ice hockey, sled hockey has grown into an international phenomena. The United States first competed in the Winter Paralympics in 1998, and has since medaled four times, including three gold performances. While nearly one dozen countries sponsor a respective national team, the growth of sled hockey relies heavily on the successes and publicity of local programs.
The Pioneers, Sled Cats, and Ice Vets provide Vermonters and neighboring states with sled hockey opportunities. The Sled Cats, founded in 2005, have the longest running program and are a member of the Northeast Sled Hockey League (NESHL). They won last year's NESHL "B" Division championship, while the Pioneers and Ice Vets both follow independent schedules.
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