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Tough Sledding

Feb 21, 2020
Written By: Randy Cleves

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Renewing one of the most unique events anywhere involving a pro sports team, the Grand Rapids Griffins and Grand Rapids Sled Wings will play their 15th annual sled hockey game on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. at Griff’s IceHouse at Belknap Park (30 Coldbrook St. NE).

The doors will open at 5 p.m. Prior to the game, fans can try out a sled on the ice for a minimum $1 donation (5-5:50 p.m.) and get autographs from their favorite Griffins players (5:20-5:50 p.m.). The game will consist of two 20-minute periods with a running clock.

The opposing sled hockey teams will be comprised of a mix of players from both the Griffins and the Sled Wings’ junior team. During the second period, local media personalities will also join in the fun by taking shifts on the ice.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5 per person or $20 per family. Children 2 and younger are free. Donations are welcome and a small silent auction will be held, with all proceeds from the evening benefiting the Sled Wings program and the Griffins Youth Foundation.

The junior Sled Wings, a talented team of children and teens who have physical disabilities, are sponsored by the Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. They became the first junior-level sled hockey team in Michigan upon their founding in 2001 and have gained a national reputation by winning various prestigious tournaments and developing six players for U.S. National Teams. The latest is goaltender Taggart VanderMolen, who has been selected to the U.S. National Development Team each of the last two seasons and in 2018, as a 15-year-old, became the youngest netminder ever to be named to the team. The Sled Wings captured their first Division A National Championship in April 2015 and have finished as National Runners-up four times.

The 15th annual sled hockey game is presented by Meijer and sponsored by the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, and Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports.

Sled hockey rules are virtually identical to traditional hockey, except participants sit on bladed sleds. Players use shortened hockey sticks with a blade on one end and a pick (similar to a toe-pick on a figure skate) on the other end, which enables them to propel themselves across the ice. As in traditional hockey, checking, penalties and hard shots are all abundant in sled hockey.