Sledge hockey surprise for Canada

ALISON KORN

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Mixed sledge hockey at the Paralympics? Not on the Canadian team.

Hockey Canada is shocked and surprised by a memorandum from the International Paralympic Committee last week announcing that teams which qualified for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games could add female athletes to their roster.

The jarring announcement clashes with the fact that no Canadian women are playing at that level yet, if it's ever possible -- and this is where the best players are.

"The inclusion of female athletes for ice sledge hockey is a step in the direction of promoting greater female participation in this sport and the Paralympic Winter Games in general," said the notice. It said the decision was "responding to the request of the nations widely and regularly practising in the sport of ice sledge hockey."

Except there was no consultation with Canada, the reigning world and Paralympic champions. That's according to Hockey Canada's Johnny Misley, executive vice president, hockey operations.

"We find this very puzzling," said Misley. "There's been no dialogue on this for a long time. It's odd. It's very odd."

The only explanation Misley's been told is that it's an offering to help the "B" pool countries develop -- Estonia, Sweden, Poland, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. It's unclear exactly how adding a female would help, though.

The Swedish team is the curiosity here. At the 2006 Turin Paralympics, they actually had a female player on their roster, only to be told she was ineligible because it was a men's tournament.

But don't expect Canada to embrace the concept. At this point in time there is no Canadian female player ready to play at the level of the Canadian national men's program; nor will anyone be ready by 2010. A fledgling national women's team is in the works, coached by Elmira's Keith Metzger. His wife Sandra is the manager, and daughter Corin, 16, is a top forward.

Metzger says the existing number of females playing sledge hockey world-wide needs to increase before debuting at the Paralympics. The only other country with a national team is the U.S.

"The Canadian women sledge hockey players have been telling us they want their own program," said Metzger. "In the best interest of all females playing sledge hockey in Canada and world wide, we need to continue the commitment of developing female national sledge hockey teams. Establishing these teams would encourage the sanctioning of women's sledge hockey as a Paralympic sport, similar to what the able-bodied women's programs have done through the International Olympic Committee."

Canadian women want and deserve full Paralympic status in the sport when they're ready. Not like this.

Time to make waves

Do you know where you'll swim after June 2009?

Let's Make Waves, a coalition of parents, students, citizens, and members of not-for-profit sports organizations, is warning that Toronto swim clubs, community swims, and Parks and Recreation programming will be further stressed or disbanded altogether come June. That's when the Toronto District School Board plans to close 39 out of its 79 school pools.

The group is encouraging supporters to attend the Community Development and Recreation Meeting on Thurs. April 16 at 9 a.m. at City Hall. Swim attire is encouraged.

For more information see www.letsmakewaves.ca.

The Inside Track

AthletesCAN, the association of Canada's national team athletes, has expressed its disappointment with CBC's decision to cancel 'The Inside Track' hosted by Robin Brown after 24 years on air.

The show specializes in bringing the human side of Canadian sport to the forefront by introducing its listeners to athletes they may not have heard of otherwise. Last week CBC announced the show would end its run on June 28.

"As an Olympic athlete, I am extremely disappointed in the funding cuts to the CBC," said Olympic silver medallist cross-country skier Sara Renner. "Like many Canadians, The Inside Track program is close to my heart and keeping it running is worth fighting for."'

ALISON_KORN@HOTMAIL.COM


Videos

Photos