The plan was carved out in Saskatoon hotel rooms and hockey rinks early
As Canada’s National Sledge Team came together at the annual Hockey Canada
Foundation gala and was honoured for its gold medal at the 2017 IPC World
Para Hockey Championship, the braintrust was hard at work.
The trip wasn’t only about celebrating. Head coach Ken Babey and his staff
laid the groundwork for the season ahead, with the goal of getting Team
Canada back on top at the Paralympic Winter Games.
“We put our guys through fitness testing during that weekend where we
celebrated our world championship win,” says Babey. “We started early in
terms of the physical preparation and getting our guys into our fitness
program and plan, with the hope that we do peak in March 2018.
“I met with all of the resources provided to us through Hockey Canada and
Canadian Sport Institute. We used all of the resources we can to build a
plan that we think focuses on peaking at certain times. One of those is the
World Sledge Hockey Challenge. The big one, of course, is the Paralympics.”
The plan has been to get together every month from September through to the
Games in March. It started with the September Showcase, which brought
together 30 players and Korea’s national team for a week of practices and
The event also served as selection camp for the 2017-18 season, with 20
players chosen to be part of the Paralympic pool leading into PyeongChang.
“Our season plan was to have more hybrid camps, where you have a mixture of
training on the ice and off the ice, but also some games mixed in.” says
Babey. “We started with the showcase where Canada split teams and we
brought in Korea, with each team playing four games and we picked our
national team from those games. We [also] mixed in some practice and
“It was the same thing with the three-game series in Korea [in early
November]. We trained two times a day on the ice and also a weight session
in between. So it put the guys through the paces and we mixed in some
The Canadians have been perfect against the Paralympic hosts this season,
winning all four games at the September Showcase before a three-game sweep
of the Koreans in Gangneung last month.
The season schedule was created with the goal of the team playing its best
at the Paralympics, which open March 8 in South Korea. Part of that is
getting acclimatized, which is why players and staff spent just over a week
in Asia in early November.
“I believe that trip will serve our team significant benefits when we go
over there again in March,” says Canadian forward Tyler McGregor. “It was a
quick trip. We were there for nine days and when you include travel and how
many practices and workouts and games we packed in, it was a very difficult
week both physically and mentally.
“It was a challenge for our team to rise to the occasion. It was all about
making that environment the most challenging it could be so that when we go
back in March, the experience seems a lot easier. There will be a little
more pressure but we will be used to the food, the different culture [and]
The schedule continues this week as Canada welcomes Italy, Korea and the
United States for the 2017 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown,
P.E.I., the second year in a row the city will play host.
McGregor says Canada has unfinished business, both at the World Sledge
Hockey Challenge and the Paralympics. Although the Canadians are the
defending world champions, the U.S. owns the most recent WSHC and
Paralympic golds, more often than not going through Canada to get them.
“We can’t wait. Our team looks great right now,” says McGregor of heading
to Charlottetown. “We’ve been training hard the past few months, coming off
of our showcase in September and just having the opportunity to go to Korea
within the past month. We look good, we’re in great shape [and] we continue
to get better.
“The special thing about the World Sledge Hockey Challenge is it’s the only
short competition that we get to play before we go over to Korea in March.
We have some of the best teams in the world coming over. Going into
Charlottetown, where we were last year, we’re excited to turn the page on
last year’s result and hopefully leave there with the gold medal and make
the most of the opportunity to play some tough competition.”