Vermont sled hockey team moves outdoors to continue playing amid pandemic

Local News

The Central Vermont Pioneers sled hockey team would normally be playing inside the Civic Center, but due to the pandemic the team had to move outside to a pond in one of the players backyards.

Jakob Kingsbury is a forward for the Central Vermont Pioneers. Kingsbury was born with spina bifida, but it didn’t stop his passion for playing sports. 

“Before sled hockey I used to try to hide my disability but with sled hockey and other adaptive sports I’ve played I like to showcase my disability, I like to put myself out there,” Kingsbury said. 

There have been challenges he’s faced from his disability. 

“A little more difficult to make friends and be included in things and I kinda felt left out of things,” Kingsbury said. 

Sled hockey is similar to regular hockey, the main difference is the equipment. 

“Instead of regular skates we have what is called sleds and they have two blades underneath and we have shorter sticks that have picks on the ends,” Kingsbury said. 

Kingsbury’s teammate, Lee Reilly wasn’t born with a disability. He lost his leg at the beginning of the opioid crisis, ten years ago.

“I overdosed, fell onto a solid wood floor, and was down there unconscious for about 23 hours, and I cut off all the circulation to the right side of my body,” Reilly said. 

He told me when his family found him, the paramedics resuscitated him, before going into cardiac arrest.

“I always felt like there was tons of pressure on me, always to do something else, but I couldn’t find it, and I think that is what led to my addiction just trying to find something and I couldn’t,” Reilly said. 

It wasn’t until he found sled hockey, a sport that gave him a whole new perspective on life. 

“I think intertwined with sled hockey, what this is, it’s more than being on a team and being athletic, it’s really being part of a family,” Reilly said. 

Kyler Quelch has been playing sled hockey for seven years. He was three years old when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Quelch said his favorite part about the sport is the physicality of the game and the people. 

“They kind of understand what you’re going through and you kind of understand what they are going through, no one really understands kind of disabilities otherwise so it’s good when you find your people,” Quelch said. 

Kingsbury has one final message to people out there. 

“If you find something you love to do, don’t let your disability stop you,” Kingsbury said. 

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