Since its debut at the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Games, the Paralympic version of ice hockey has quickly become one of the largest attractions for spectators. It is fast-paced, highly physical and played by male and female athletes with a physical impairment in the lower part of the body. The sport is governed by the IPC with co-ordination by the World Para Ice Hockey Technical Committee.
It follows the rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) with modifications. Instead of skates, players use double-blade sledges that allow the puck to pass beneath. Players use two sticks, which have a spike-end for pushing and a blade-end for shooting.
As in ice hockey, each team attempts to outscore its opponent by shooting the puck across the ice and into the opposing team’s goal while preventing the opposing team from scoring. Six players (including the goalkeeper) from each team are on the ice at one time.
Double-blade sledges that allow the puck to pass underneath replace skates, and the players use sticks with a spike-end and a blade-end. Therefore, with a quick flip of the wrist, the players are able to propel themselves using the spikes and then play the puck using the blade-end of the sticks. A player may use two sticks with blades in order to facilitate stick handling and ambidextrous shooting. Ice sledge hockeygames consist of three 15-minute periods.
A direct descendant of ice hockey, Para ice hockey was invented at a rehabilitation centre in Stockholm, Sweden, during the early 1960’s by a group of Swedes who, despite their physical impairment, wanted to continue playing hockey. The men modified a metal frame sled, or sledge, with two regular-sized ice hockey skate blades that allowed the puck to pass underneath. Using round poles with bike handles for sticks, the men played without any goaltenders on a lake south of Stockholm.
The sport caught on and, by 1969, Stockholm had a five-team league that included players with a physically impairment and able-bodied players.
That same year, Stockholm hosted the first international Para ice hockey match between a local club team and one from Oslo, Norway.
During the 1970’s, teams from these two countries played once or twice a year. Several other countries began to establish teams, including Great Britain (1981), Canada (1982), USA (1990), Estonia and Japan (1993).
Two Swedish national teams played an exhibition match at the inaugural Örnsköldsvik 1976 Paralympic Winter Games in Sweden.