Grassroots development for women’s Para ice hockey surges thanks to Para Sport Jumpstart Fund

Canadian Paralympic Committee

February 24, 2020

"It’s definitely important to be in all-female environment"

women's sledge hockey

Para ice hockey in Canada and around the world has largely been the domain of men with a disability. But expect that to change over the next few years as Women’s Sledge Hockey of Canada works to recruit and introduce more women to the sport.

Thanks in part to a grant the organization received from the Para Sport Jumpstart Fund, more opportunities than ever before are available for females of all ages to take their first shots in the sport.

‘’We really pride ourselves on grassroots development and support,” said Tara Chisholm, head coach of the women’s national team. “The funding was really crucial to help us bring the sport of Para hockey to more girls and women across our nation.’’

The funding helped Women’s Sledge Hockey of Canada to run events to introduce players to the sport in Bridgewater, N.S., Boucherville, Que., Paris, Ont., and Winnipeg with more on the way.

These events are opportunities geared towards individuals with little to no experience level to get into a sled and learn the foundations of playing Para ice hockey. Equipment is provided, and they are inclusive to any age or ability level.

‘’It makes our job much easier to have the security of the funding rather than search for it as we go along,’’ said Chisholm. ’’We can come to these communities and ask them ‘what are your needs’ and suggest ideas to make it bigger and better. We can go in and help them right off the bat.’’

Many of the national team members across Canada are actively involved in the growth and development of Para ice hockey in their communities. 

‘’We rely on our national team members,’’ said Chisholm. ‘’They are passionate about the sport. They are the ones that lead these sessions and they are the ones that actually plan the events from the initial stages to the final completion of the female mentorship session.’’

Chisholm says a comfortable setting for the participants at these sessions is a real draw.

‘’It’s definitely important to be in all-female environment,’’ she said. ‘’Sometimes that can be what is deterring someone from getting into a sled for the first time. We know that Para hockey is a male dominated sport so when they go to a club program, they might be one of the only females on the ice. That can be intimidating especially if it is your first time and other people have been playing for a long time and you are not the same gender as them.’’

Participants are often set up with an elite player.

”We try to pair the mentors with someone with similar disability so they can share tips and tricks, how they can transfer to the sled, show different ways to work with different equipment, how to shoot with your core function and so on,’’ said Chisholm. ‘’That’s part of why it’s fun to have the female national team players leading it. They are definitely the best resource to showing other girls and women with a disability to how they play the sport.’’

The emergence of the sport for women in Canada is starting to have a ripple effect internationally. The first women’s world championships are officially scheduled for 2021 and Chisholm says the hope is inclusion in the 2026 Paralympic Winter Games in Milan.

‘’World Para Ice Hockey has been clear. It wants other nations to get on board and help build the game.’’

Applications for the 2020 Para Sport Jumpstart Fund are now open. Please visit for more information. 

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