DELMAR: Open ice for everyone

Twelve-year-old Luke Wilson of Delmar wants to play every sport his twin brother Ben plays, including hockey.

The problem is, Luke's cerebral palsy prevents him from playing competitively.

Starting in September, though, Luke will have the chance to play a competitive sport. Bethlehem Youth Hockey is starting a region-wide sled hockey program that is open to people of all ages.

I think it's really exciting. I can't wait to get on the ice, said Luke.

Sled hockey has many of the same rules as regular hockey. The primary difference is that the players sit on specially designed sleds with hockey skate blades on the runners, and they propel themselves with two short hockey sticks that have metal picks at one end to grab the ice.

Luke's parents, Kim and Tom Wilson, spearheaded the push to establish a sled hockey program in the Capital District, and it didn't take them long to convince Bethlehem Youth Hockey's administrative board to give it a chance.

"They welcomed us with open arms. (The vote) was unanimous," said Kim. "They are actually sponsoring us by giving us ice time" at its home rink, the Bethlehem Area YMCA.

The sled hockey program will start with a junior team in the fall coached by Ben Ferber, who has experience as a hockey player and a youth team coach. A novice team, an intermediate team and a senior team will be added in the future.

"I've done a lot of research on the Internet," said Ferber. "There's a lot I still have to learn, but I've already got the basics."

To raise money and awareness of the sport, the Wilsons worked with the Buffalo Sabres sled hockey program to set up two exhibitions. The first took place Dec. 27 between periods of an Albany River Rats home game. The second exhibition takes place Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. at the Bethlehem Area YMCA.

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