Defending champion Ice Hawks ready to soar

Megan Rivait, 11, tends goal during a recent Sarnia Ice Hawks practice. Sarnia opens defense of its provincial sledge hockey title Nov. 1. Barry Wright

Barry Wright

One of Sarnia’s best-kept sports secrets begins defence of its Ontario Sledge Hockey Association developmental championship in a few days.

The provincial champion Sarnia Ice Hawks host Windsor on Saturday, Nov. 1 at the Germain Arena at 2:30 p.m. before heading down the highway to play London the next day.

Ice Hawks Head Coach Mike Callander says the club lost a few players from last season but a handful of new kids have come out and fared well.

“In any program, that’s what you need – fresh faces to keep it going,” said Callander.  “We’ve got a good nucleus.”

He credits the Paralympics and the impact of Forest’s Tyler McGregor on Team Canada as reasons why new players have taken up sledge hockey.

Sarnia plays a 10-game regular season in a division with teams from London, Windsor, Hamilton, Mississauga and Buffalo.

Sarnia went unbeaten last year in 16 regular season and playoff games and capturing a provincial title, and was a provincial finalist in 2013. But the coach is setting a realistic target for this season.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs. If you put the cart before the horse and you don’t make the playoffs, you’re not going anywhere,” he said.

Callander enjoys teaching the Ice Hawks skills, teamwork and discipline, but the main focus is always to have fun.

“If they’re out there (on the ice) laughing and having a good time, that’s really what it’s all about.”

Callander says anyone interested in trying the sports can attend an Ice Hawks practice on Thursdays at 4 p.m. at Germain Arena.