11-year-old’s dream of playing sledge hockey brought to Melville, Sask.

Sledge hockey gear includes a sledge with blades on the bottom, specialized sticks, and gloves. Photo by Heidi Atter.

A new sledge hockey team in Melville, Saskatchewan was inspired by one young girl’s love of the sport.

Ayva Delainey has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Her mom Tracy Delainey wanted to bring the sport to their home community. Now children with disabilities and without are playing together.

The new team is called the Melville Sledge Dogs. It’s the first sledge hockey team for children under 13 in the town and surrounding area. The team has drawn interest recently and has 16 children wanting to play.

It just makes me so happy that we can do this for these other kids in the community too. – Tracy Delainey

The sledges are provided by the team in partnership with the Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association. Sledge hockey has the same rules as hockey but it is played sitting down with shorter hockey sticks.

“It just makes me so happy that we can do this for these other kids in the community too,” she said. “Those kids maybe don’t have a disability but they also didn’t have the opportunity to play on a team and that’s pretty important to kids.”

Marcy Yewsuk said when she heard there would be a local team she was excited. She has three children and said it was good for her son and daughter to play together. Marcy said the team is very good at including everyone.

Nine-year-old goalie for the team, Kolton Yewsuk, said he wanted to try it.

“It’s a fun game,” he said. “It’s kind of hard.”

Brynleigh and Kolton Yewsuk at a Melville Sledge Dogs game. Their mom, Marcy Yewsuk, said the team is open to everyone and comes together to help load and unload the sledges. (Submitted by Marcy Yewsuk)

Brynleigh is six and had a brain injury that resulted in a minor disability. She got the 1st goal for her team and said she’s making new friends on the team.

“Ayva’s friend,” she said she was. “Someone was pushing me.”

Marcy said it was hard at the start for Brynleigh to push herself on the sledge and someone helped push her at their latest game.

To help start the team, Tracy Delainey spent time promoting the sport to local schools and surrounding towns before hosting a ‘Have-a-go’ day last April.

“We had more people than they have ever had come to a ‘Have-a-go’ day,” Tracy said. “There was 60 or 70 people.”

The Melville Sledge Dogs in action. (Submitted by Marcy Yewsuk)

The Sledge Dogs played their first games on the road and won their first home game 4-3 against the Melville Prairie Fire on Jan. 18, 2019.

“I like having a team I know,” Ayva said. “I really like being part of a team.”

“[Ayva’s] just so much more confident actually playing. It’s hard to even describe how much she loves, she can’t wait until Friday comes,” Tracy said.

“She gets pretty excited about it,” Tracy said. “Like when we were having this game this past weekend, she couldn’t sleep the night before she just was so excited about it.”

Tracy said the sport also gives Ayva something else to talk about with her classmates.

“It honestly is a really big deal for Ayva just knowing what the other kids are talking about and talking to them about it,” Tracy said. “She feels like a pretty big deal.”

Tracy and Ayva Delainey. (Submitted by Tracy Delainey)

The Delainey’s are a large hockey family. The first time Ayva skated with an ice hockey sledge, her mom started crying. Ayva was four-years-old and her older brother was in a sledge with her.

“We still have videos of it. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Tracy said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a smile that big on her face before.”

“She grew up at the rink,” Tracy said. “Once in awhile [Ayva] would say that she wished she could walk. But she did say often that she wished she could play hockey.”

Ayva said her favourite part of the last game was winning. She said she likes to talk about hockey with her family.

Tracy said sledge hockey is also a good workout for Ayva.

“It’s a great physical activity too like especially for Ayva, it’s not always easy to find things to keep her active,” she said. “And yet it’s super important to keep someone who’s in a wheelchair all the time active and have a healthy lifestyle.”

Ayva said her hopes for the future is to play on Team Canada.

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