By KIMBERLEY A. LEE
Special to The Republican
You have to love and respect people who give the gift of themselves and ask for nothing in return. People just like Aaron Morrison who volunteers with the Western Mass Knights, a sled hockey team sponsored by CHD.
Aaron didn’t follow the traditional route most kids take playing ice hockey. He started at age 39.
“I used to be a professional wrestler,” he explains. “I wanted to help my brother’s kids get into sports. Walking through the sporting goods store, my nephews went straight for the hockey equipment, so I set them up. I had never played hockey myself and decided to take the opportunity to learn.”
Aaron bought some hockey gear and joined an adult learn-to-play program in Holyoke. He and some friends started renting the ice for pick-up games. When they rented the ice at Amelia Park in Westfield, they were asked to join a league.
“We did join,” Aaron recalls, “and we got our butts handed to us every game! It was still fun. That’s where I met Tim Glagow, who coaches sled hockey. One day he sent me a text inviting me to be part of CHD’s sled hockey program.”
Aaron decided to give it a try. Right away he liked the people and the people liked him. It didn’t take long for him to realize that volunteering to help out with sled hockey was the right decision. He started by pushing players who were more limited in their abilities. He’d never done anything like that before and was surprised how tough a workout it is, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.
“In sled hockey,” Aaron explains, “players sit in a sled that has skate blades on the bottom. Their feet and torso are strapped in. They have two sticks, each with a set of picks bolted to one end and angled so players can use them to kind of row themselves along the ice. The other end is a hockey stick blade for passing and shooting the puck.”
One thing that’s special about sled hockey is the teams can include both disabled and able bodied players. Teams often include family members or friends who bring a mix of abilities. Some players do need a bit of help on the ice. That’s where Aaron’s volunteer spirit comes alive, as a pusher.
“My job as pusher is to move players who don’t have the ability to move themselves down the ice,” he says. “I keep them in the game. One time I was pushing a player, Jeff Granger, and he went in for a goal. I saw the look on his face when he scored and it was just amazing. Playing sled hockey really changes the day for the players and when they get a goal…like I said, amazing.”
Like other organized sports, sled hockey has leagues and tournaments, and there’s a special event coming up: The Cammer Cup.
On Sunday, the Western Mass Knights Sled Hockey Teams host the sixth annual Cammer Cup at Amelia Park Arena, 21 South Broad St in Westfield. At 5 p.m., the Celebrity Face-off pits media personalities and community leaders against the Western Mass Jr. Knights (18 and under). At 6, the Western Mass Knights (adults) play the team from Charter Oak Men’s League.
These games celebrate the memory of the Knights’ late teammate Alex Camerlin (pictured below), and it’s a fantastic time. One $10 ticket gets you into both games and proceeds benefit the Knights adult and junior sled hockey programs. Come out and support the team, the players – and the volunteers, who like Aaron, give more than a push to our players!