By Carol Schwanger (Disabled Hockey Representative, Michigan District) -
It was a busy summer for a member of the Grand Rapids Sled Wings.
Tyler Anderson, 20, received MAHA’s Wes Danielson Award, presented to an athlete who overcomes a disability to play the game of hockey, at their banquet on July 9. Anderson, a member of the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, was born with spina bifida. Despite being in a wheelchair his entire life, Anderson has never let it keep him from any athletic endeavors. He was the first Michigan player to make a national sled team, continuing to improve his game, and he now mentors the players of the youth Sled Wings team as he joined the coaching ranks in the 2010-11 season.
Anderson was one of four members of the Grand Rapids Sled Wings received invitations to participate in the Sled Hockey Development Camp in Rochester, New York. Anderson, Chris Melton, Tim White and Susie Kluting were part of the largest sled camp to date for USA Hockey. Three Michigan representatives – Anderson, Melton and White – were veterans of the week-long schedule of on-ice practices, off-ice team building and lectures on conditioning, equipment, nutrition and the USA Hockey philosophy; games and fun. Newly-named National Sled Team head coach Jeff Sauer led the on-ice practices.
Following camp, two days of tryouts for the National Sled Team took place. This year Anderson decided to stay and watch.
“I wanted to see what the next level of play was like on the ice first-hand so I know exactly where I need to improve,” said Anderson, was named to the Junior National Sled Development Team for his third season.
Kluting was the rookie at camp this season and one of only five girls at the camp. The level of skill of all the players and the coaching she received all week impressed her. Kluting’s favorite part of the camp was her “time at the dorm hanging around with everyone”. She also attended the Sled Jamboree in June in Philadelphia, where she skated with Shawna Davidson, coach of the National Women’s Sled Team.
This was the largest camp since its inception seven years ago. J.J. O’Connor, camp director and disabled section chair for USA Hockey stated he received 80 applications to attend the camp this year. From that, 56 players were chosen to play – up from 41 players just last season.
“It is a real testament to the growth of the sled hockey in programs all over the country,” O’Connor said. “We continue to grow, and the talent is better every summer at camp, too”.
Remembering Alex Knapp: The summer began with an honor going to Alex Knapp. Knapp was named the USA Hockey Disabled Athlete of the Year at Annual Congress in Colorado Springs in June. Members of the Disabled Section honored him posthumously for his continuing influence on players from all over the country with his positive attitude and commitment to developing his skills, and those of his teammates. Knapp was a member of the Sled Dogs team, who skate out of Great Lakes Sports City in Fraser. He was named to the USA Hockey Junior National Sled Development Team in July 2010, but unfortunately attended only one camp before his death on Oct. 2, 2010.