Maggie Manning is back on the ice – and thrilled to be there.
From about kindergarten to age 14, the young Salmon Arm woman, now turning 21, loved playing ringette and hockey.
When her mobility decreased she took up swimming and excelled as a para-swimmer, reaching provincial, national and international standards.
However, currently busy with courses at Thompson Rivers University where she’s studying respiratory therapy, heavy swim training would be too much. Instead, she has discovered a new love. Sledge hockey.
“My heart has always been on the ice but I had to stop because my health deteriorated so much. That really broke my heart, but I found swimming. That’s not quite the same, it’s a different type of sport, it’s not a team sport, it’s very individualized, so starting sledge hockey has really given that freedom back.”
Born without a ball and socket hip joint, Manning has undergone many surgeries throughout her life. She is currently awaiting a hip replacement.
Sledge hockey began for her about two years ago in Prince George. Now in Kamloops at TRU, she came home to Salmon Arm during the pandemic. But she hasn’t stopped playing. Thanks to Kamloops Adapted Sports who lent her a sledge to use, she has been a familiar face at the public skating times at Shaw Centre.
One of the things she loves about sledge hockey is it is played by people with all levels and degrees of ability.
Her parents Frank and Salle Manning were at the rink on the day of the interview; they enjoy watching and her dad has joined her on occasion in Kamloops when an extra sledge has been available.
He said it’s fun and harder than it looks; it takes a lot of abdominal strength.
Maggie agrees, adding that it’s completely different from ringette.
“It’s the same sport in terms of hockey, same rules, but you’re sitting, you have two sticks, which means a lot more coordination between hands… There are still two blades on the bottom, but it’s all controlled by your abs, so it’s been a really big learning curve learning how to use my core to steer and to do all the things normally your legs would do.”
The sticks have less curvature than in hockey, so they can lay flat on the ice. Ice picks on the end of the sticks allow a player to propel themselves.
With a laugh, Maggie likens sledge hockey to bumper cars. She said it is a contact sport, and sometimes people tip over.
Gord Mackintosh, who helped out with the public skates, was pleased with the diversity of people who attended.
“We’ve encouraged all types of people. Maggie has been out to play sledge hockey, a Syrian group has been out – these kids have never skated in their life, people who haven’t skated for 20, 30 years have come out.”
Maggie said she was happy when children attended, as it exposed them to sledge hockey and varying abilities of skaters.
“I love getting people involved in the sport. It’s not just disabled people who can play, it’s almost primarily able-bodied people, especially in smaller communities, so getting other people involved in sledge hockey is a really big thing – and if it’s kids, that’s super fun. Getting them exposed to diversity and inclusion of disabilities is really important.”