Sled hockey, or para ice hockey, is one of the most grueling sports around. Take all of the rules, speed, and skill of standard ice hockey and add in the weight of the sled. Then add the fact that players have to move themselves with the same arms that they use to shoot and stickhandle with – literally clawing their way forward using metal teeth on the butt end of their sticks.
As far as the greatest of all time, I defer to legendary Norwegian sled hockey defenseman Morten Vaernes, who recently chose his top players:
Steve Cash was the goaltender for Team USA from 2007 through 2017. He won three world championships and two Paralympic gold medals to go with the bronze he won in 2006. Says Vaernes: “He has a great ability of placing his body in front of the puck, which makes it difficult to score on him.”
Helge Bjornstad was a forward for Team Norway from 1992 through 2012. His crowning achievement was winning the gold medal at the 1998 Paralympic Games. Says Vaernes: “He has a great ability of making his teammates look good, besides being a great goal scorer.”
Billy Bridges is a forward for Team Canada, and has been since 1998. He’s won four world championships and the gold medal at the 2006 Paralympics. Says Vaernes: “Bridges can be a hothead at times, but his great overall skills as a sledge hockey player makes him a definite top-three on this list.”
Rolf Pedersen is a forward for Team Norway, and has been for over 30 years. He’s won two silver medals and a bronze in sled hockey at the Paralympics. He’s also won a silver and a bronze in ice sled speed skating, and a gold in cross country skiing. Says Vaernes: “He is the best offensive defenseman in the world, and he gives Norway the little extra push to win games.”
Brad Bowden is a forward for Team Canada, and has been since 1999. He’s won a gold and bronze in sled hockey at the Paralympic games, as well as three world championships. He also won a gold in wheelchair basketball at the summer Paralympics in 2004. Says Vaernes: “Bowden is the player with the best understanding of the game, and he has great overall skills. He is always amongst top leaders in goals and assists, great puck and sledge control, and in my mind, the best sledge hockey player of all-time.”
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