There are many ways how to show that handicapped people can do things many would have thought impossible. Most of them patronizing. Only one of them correct: respectful. That’s exactly how Hockey Unlimited portrayed sledge hockey players.
Episode 6 that aired Monday on Sportsnet and will see a number of repeats (see schedule below) opens with a segment portraying Canada’s top sledge hockey players.
While there are several players who decided to engage in this kind of hockey just for the sheer pleasure of it, most sledge hockey players have joined because they had no other option. Illnesses or injuries wouldn’t let them play hockey any other way.
And yet, none of them complains: why me? What have I done to deserve such fate?
A few of them share some of their feelings that overwhelmed them when they thought there would be no way to play their favourite game ever again, but all of them decided to tackle the fate.
They found new friends, new joys and, while they are at it, they enliven the Hockey From a Low Angle segment by showing us some of the tricks of their trade, tricks that make sledge hockey such an exciting sport.
The next segment, The Name Game, belongs under the heading: did you know?
Yes, most hockey players, perfectly aware of who’s paying their wages, would stop and sign autographs when asked by fans. Most fans keep the signed photograph or ticket stub or what have you as a memento: I’ve met this hockey star, we shook hands, we have exchanged a couple of words, even, and he was nice enough to sign this for me.
But sports memorabilia is big business, too. There are companies that pay hockey players good money for their autographs, be it on cards, photographs, jerseys, sticks, whatever other pieces of equipment come to mind. These companies then sell the memorabilia to all and sundry, and you can bet your last dollar that they are not losing money in the process.
And then there are memorabilia fanatics. Janet and Dale’s basement is a real gallery, with all kinds of hockey-related artifacts worth in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There exists a saying that women are too rational to become avid collectors of anything, from postage stamps to, say, ancient china. Or from beer mugs to, say, goalies’ catching gloves.
Either the saying has got it frightfully wrong, or Janet is an incredible exception.
One thing that drives this nice couple is that they have got most (if not all) of the stuff that adorns their basement by being there. If there’s an event, they’ll make a point of showing up, and they have proof: entry tickets are attached to whatever exhibit they have obtained there.
No, Hockey Unlimited does not reveal whence the intrepid couple come.
And no, Janet and Dale’s collection is not for sale.
Another thing that’s not for sale is health. One of the most frequent injuries in hockey (give or take a concussion or two) is damage done to players’ knees.
Just remember names such as Bobby Orr, Cam Neely or Pavel Bure. Their stellar careers were cut short because of knee injuries that even the most advanced medicine of their times could not repair sufficiently to allow them to return to the game they all loved.
Times have changed beyond belief.
A segment called Saving Knees explains, first and foremost, what kind of knee injuries are typical for hockey players, what kind of impact they have, and what modern medicine can do about them.
It used to be that surgeons had to open a player’s knee wide, trying to re-attach what had been torn and attempt to perform miracles. A player would then spend at least a week in the hospital, and the rehabilitation would be not only slow and painful, but – most often – unsuccessful.
Nothing like that any longer. Arthroscopic surgery allows surgeons to enter the injured area through small incisions, seeing everything inside on a television screen, work to their hearts’ content and send the player home within hours after they left him in stitches.
What has also changed tremendously is the rehabilitation process. Modern equipment lets therapists see exactly what’s going on and where in the player’s body, allowing them to adjust the special exercises accordingly.
A player is back in the game within six months, as compared to never just a few years ago.
Surgeons explain in considerable detail just what they are doing, and a real player who has gone through the experience (Ryan Smyth) explains what it takes for a player to feel really comfortable following all this healing process, what it takes to overcome fears that the injury can come back.
Steve Serdachny’s on-ice tricks and Simon Bennett’s dry-land exercises complete the half-hour show.
If there is one special thing that distinguishes Aquila Productions’ documentaries, it’s respect. It’s respect for both the people they show, and for the people they show their heroes to. That their tradecraft is impeccable has been a long-established tradition: from camera work through editing to music selections, from story selection to approach to handling their topics, Aquila Productions’ body of work should attract the Hockey Hall of Fame’s attention.
Mon. Mar. 23
|3 PM ET||SN One|
|9:30 PM PT (12:30 AM ET)||SN Pacific, SN West, SN Ontario, SN East|
Tues. Mar. 24
|1 PM ET||SN Ontario, SN East|
|3:30 PM ET||SN One|
Thurs. Mar. 26
|3:30 PM ET||SN Pacific, SN West, SN Ontario, SN East|