Sitting Bulls take to the ice with their idols
The Johnstown Sitting Bulls disabled sled hockey team received the thrill of their young lives last week: An opportunity to take to the ice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It was a joy to see the kids expressions – watching practice, standing along the glass, watching their favorite players," coach Brian Buchkovich said.
Joe Vitale, Brooks Orpik and Steve McIntyre.
"You could see the smiles on their faces and they definitely brought a few smiles to mine, that's for sure," McIntyre told penguins.com. McIntyre traded his skates for a sled for most of the practice, gaining first-hand experience into the sport.
Joining the Sitting Bulls at the practice were the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins sled hockey team.
Tthe Sitting Bulls – a team for players with disabilities – have drawn considerable attention to the sport of sled hockey and were featured on a segment shown on Fox Sports Pittsburgh during intermission of a Penguins game last season.
"This is our fourth year," Buchkovich said. "There's still people who don't know we're here. I know there's kids in our area who would love to participate in this, but they just don't know about it."
In sled hockey, participants play competitive ice hockey with the help of specially designed sleds. They use two shortened sticks, with picks on one end, to move on the ice.
The team is preparing for a tournament in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 13-15, followed by tournaments in Fort Wayne, Ind., in February and Grand Rapids, Mich., in March. The will travel to Cincinnati for an end-of-season sled hockey celebration in April.
The Sitting Bulls practice weekly at Planet Ice in Richland Township.
"Sled hockey isn't easy," Buchkovich said. "It's something they have to work at. It's something they need to commit to. It's something that challenges them.
"It gives them a sense of pride."