Sled Hockey U.P. gets new funding

Members of the Grand Rapids Junior Sled Wings take part in a sled hockey demonstration and clinic on Dec. 3 at Lakeview Arena in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ray Bressette)

MARQUETTE — A local hockey program recently received national recognition and a grant from USA Hockey to give more support to their team.

Sled Hockey U.P., a new program in Marquette for the disabled, was one of six programs to receive $25,000 from USA hockey and Labatt Blue’s “Pass It Forward” initiative in April.

Sled Hockey U.P. founder and organizer Allen Beauchamp said the award was a true honor.

“I couldn’t believe it when it was announced,” Beauchamp said. “To be one of six to be chosen nationwide is just incredible.”

A little more than a year ago, Beauchamp, an Upper Peninsula native who played hockey until he was paralyzed from the waist down in 2010 from an all-terrain vehicle accident, organized and began sled hockey while teaming up with Disability Network of the U.P.

Sled hockey is a form of the sport that allows those who cannot take part in traditional hockey due to disabilities to continue playing.

Players sit in a plastic bucket seat on a sled made of aluminum with two skate blades attached, while the skater has two small sticks with picks on the end to propel themselves around the ice.

Since the U.P. program’s beginning, three events have been held at Lakeview Arena in Marquette, showcasing the sport to a community rich with hockey history.

“The community has been very supportive,” Beauchamp said. “It’s definitely a growing trend across the country.

“I run into people every day who are just learning about the sport. I was unaware of it myself five or so years ago, but now it’s become a big part of my life.”

The latest grant from USA Hockey was not the first Beauchamp applied for and received.

In January, the program received $5,000 for new sleds through the same national organization.

The latest grant, valued at $25,000, will be split up, with at least $2,500 going toward equipment, $4,000 toward ice rental and $6,000 through past funding.

In addition to the funds, two members of the program will also receive an all-inclusive trip to the USA sled hockey development camp in Columbus, Ohio, in late September.

Beauchamp said his group’s biggest focus right now is increasing the number of skaters on the ice with their program.

Sled Hockey U.P. competes through USA Hockey and has two two age groups, with youth and adult divisions.

Beauchamp said no one should be discouraged from joining based on their level of experience with hockey.

“Our hurdle right now is getting participants to join the organization,” Beauchamp said. “We want to get enough people so we can have formal practice and game schedules and a chance to compete even more.

“We have enough people to get on the ice. We definitely need to get the word out that we are looking for people to join. You don’t have to have any prior hockey experience. Everyone with some form of disability prohibiting them from traditional hockey is welcome.”

Ray Bressette can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is rbressette@miningjournal.net.