Area players eye national squad berths
By STEPHEN SWEET, QMI AGENCYPosted 4 days ago
He's been called "the Bobby Orr of sledge hockey."
But Midland's Adam Dixon just shrugs it off.
The stalwart defenceman, who was in Barrie this past weekend for Canada's National Sledge Hockey Team's selection camp, laughs a little when he hears the comparison again.
"Yeah, I've been called that by (former national team captain Jean) Labonte, but I don't know," said Dixon modestly.
He' got a chance to show off his skills closer to home this weekend.
"It's awesome," Dixon said. "I only had to drive about 10 minutes to the hotel we're staying in this weekend, so that's nice."
That has meant that people who haven't had a chance to see him this close to home since he played for the Elmvale Bears are getting to follow him once again.
"It's good to have all of the family support and friends I have here," Dixon said. "It's great to get the exposure in Barrie, and now they kind of know what I do."
The whole program has enjoyed their time working out of East Bayfield Community Centre so far.
"It's been fantastic," said Team Canada coach Mike Mondin. " The rink and zamboni guys have done a great job with it. It's been impressive and everyone's been so welcoming."
The green rink is built without any step or incline between the bench area and the ice, so that allows for sledge hockey players to seamlessly enter and leave the ice surface.
"Most of the arenas they build now are sledge accessible," Mondin said. "It's great when we can come here and it's all already set up for us."
His team comes into the training camp as champions of the most recent event, having won the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in London in April.
However, they were runners-up at the world championship in Japan last year, getting edged 1-0 by Norway in the final.
"It was a substitute (event) that we won, but we're proud of the accomplishment of our team," Mondin said. "If we can do that at the world championship this year, it'll be physical fitness, the mental game and, of course, execution (that will get us there).
"I think we've got the guys here in camp that we can pick a team from."
Dixon and goaltender Drew Rigden, a Coldwater native, are among the handful at camp vying for spots, and Mondin is very impressed with the former.
"I know it's been said several times that he's the Bobby Orr of sledge hockey, and I agree," Mondin said. "He proves that every time he's on the ice. He's just a dominant player out there."
Being a blue-liner, Dixon's priority is still to keep out any game-winning goals rather than scoring them.
"As a defenceman, the plus/minus is a big thing for me," Dixon said. "I like to have no goals against, but I do like to jump up in the rush a bit, and put my offensive touch in there as well."
Those who make the squad, which Dixon has been a mainstay on, will head up to Yellowknife, N.W.T., for a training camp before beginning international play with the Sledge Challenge in Calgary.
But before they do, there's still another day of tryouts, as well as one more intra-squad game, where Mondin hopes that those who haven't yet seen sledge hockey will be blown away by it.
"I'm sure people that haven't viewed it live will be impressed with how fast it is, how hard they shoot and how strong these players are," Mondin said.
That's pretty much what Dixon, who has been playing since he was 11, loves about the sport.
"A lot of people are surprised by the speed and the physicality out there," Dixon said. "I really hope people come out and watch, because this game is a lot of fun."