Boston Bruins alumni Bob Sweeney and Tom Songin welcomed 19 Unified Sports Program athletes and 11 athletes from the University of New Hampshire’s Northeast Passage program to the ice at Boston’s TD Gardens February 28. The afternoon event, sponsored in part by World T.E.A.M. Sports, was the first-ever sled hockey event to be held on the home ice of the National Hockey League’s Bruins.
Sweeney, a center with the Bruins from 1987-1992, currently serves as the director of development for the Boston Bruins Foundation. Songin, a right winger for the club from 1978-1981, currently serves as the ambassador to youth hockey for the Boston Bruins. Both provided valuable assistance and training for the young athletes. Another 15 volunteers also provided assistance to the athletes with disabilities. The event was a part of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, supporting developmental hockey among children.
Created in Sweden in the early 1960s, sled hockey expanded worldwide in the following decades. Added to the Paralympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994, competitive teams are now found throughout the United States. Following essentially the same rules as ice hockey, sled hockey uses specially-designed sleds that allow the disabled athlete to participate in the game, yet have a small footprint on the ice, allowing the puck to pass beneath.
The Unified Sports Program in Massachusetts is a non-profit organization that provides inclusive sporting events for young athletes who are disabled. Sled hockey was introduced to the organization in 2010, with World T.E.A.M. Sports joining as a sponsor. The Washington-based, non-profit national sports management organization provided custom logoed blue and red hockey jerseys to the young competitors for both the 2010 and 2011 events.
Unified Sports Program Director Steve Berube expressed satisfaction about the 2011 event at the TD Garden, and his experience in working with World T.E.A.M. Sports founder James Benson and President Paul Bremer. “I really enjoyed talking to them and hope to continue to grow the relationship between our like minded organizations,” Mr. Berube said.