San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center hosts sled hockey clinic

Sport allows disabled athletes to hit the ice

BAKERSFIELD -  

Wesley Barrientos is use to being in the middle of the action.

"I was in the military," Barrientos said. "I was in Iraq and I was in my third deployment to Iraq and I was wounded by a roadside bomb and blew off both of my legs."

Now back in the United States, Barrientos uses prosthetic legs to get around - but he wanted a sport that would allow him to remain active and once again be in the middle of the action. 

"I heard about sled hockey and I said 'oh, yeah, I love contact and I love playing so yeah, lets do this,'" Barrientos said.

The San Joaquin Community Hospital Ice Center has been very supportive of these adaptive hockey players, hosting a sled hockey clinic on Saturday.  

"I just talked to John (one of the players) from Taft and he just sat in it for the first time and he said, 'wow.' You just feel so free," Scott Hay, the center's director said. "He didn't have that wheel chair around him and he was just smiling from ear to ear and that really is whats its all about."

At the ice center Saturday was Dr. Adam Gorra. A pediatric surgeon at the Children's Hospital of Central California, he has been involved with getting a sled hockey program established in the Fresno area. He is now focused on spreading the sport to Bakersfield.

 

"We just started this program a couple of months ago," Gorra said. "We decided that we kind of wanted to bring our show down here and try and generate some interest here because it would be great if we could get two teams going in the central valley." 

Gorra adds that this isn't a sport just for those with a disability. 

"It's a very humbling experience even for the able-bodied," Gorra said "The abed-bodied and the disabled can compete together and everyone can have a fun time together and that is what it is all about." 

As the program is looking to expand, a helping hand was present at the clinic.

Neal Agness, a business development manager from Alianza Recycling and Recovery, presented a check that will be able to buy at least two new sleds. The additional sleds will allow more players to get out on the ice which is where these hockey players want to be.

"They're begging to get out there again as soon as they get off the ice," Gorra said. "They love the feeling, the gliding across the ice. It is a feeling like they have never felt before."  

Clinic organizers and participants want to see the sport catch on.

They said they're taking steps toward establishing sled hockey teams in Fresno and Bakersfield. Eventually they have hopes of competing against teams in the San Diego and Bay areas. 

That aside, Barrientos said the ultimate goal is to simply get as many people involved as possible - so everyone can be active, have an opportunity to exercise and have fun. 

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