NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) — An Upper Peninsula sled hockey team that launched after the founder visited Grand Rapids to learn more about it is recruiting.
“Sled hockey is an adaptive sport for individuals who have a lower limb disability,” Allen Beauchamp of the Sled Hockey U.P. Sled Cats explained. “So basically anyone that cannot play traditional ice hockey, this sport is available.”
He made sled hockey a thing in the U.P. four years ago.
“Since 2016,” Beauchamp said. “I actually went down to Grand Rapids and tried the sport for the first time, brought it back up to Marquette.”
Beauchamp used to play traditional ice hockey until accident left him wheelchair-bound, but the sled gets him right back into the game he loves.
“To be able to go back and continue playing a sport that you always loved your entire life, I don’t have words,” Beauchamp said. “It’s amazing.”
The team includes all skill levels, the youngest being 12 years old and oldest 73.
“I may be the oldest player but I have the spirit of a 25-year-old,” Jim Susorney said.
He has been on the Sled Cats team since the beginning. He said once he’s one the ice, his disability disappears.
“I’m relatively new to being disabled,” he said. “I had an accident, it would be six years this summer, and I try to do what I can. But I never envisioned the feeling when I’m on the ice with my sled. It’s like, ‘Oh, I can do it.’ It’s like the old days…”
The team’s goalie, Jason Brannas, has also been on the team since the beginning.
“This sport here occupies you, also it makes you stronger,” Brannas said. “By having your arms move around more, it gives you more momentum.”
The team travels to Grand Rapids each March to compete and is always looking for more members.
“A lot of people get intimidated when they see the sport sled hockey,” Beauchamp said. “Especially if their in a chair or they have certain mobility challenges. My suggestion is come out, watch it. You’re more than welcome to try. It’s free. We have a partnership with SAIL Disability Network of the Upper Peninsula. Once you get out on the sled, everybody’s even. So that’s the great part about the sport.”