Up North: Boundary Waters Sled Hockey Combine teaches disabled athletes more than hockey

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The Northland is known for its high end hockey talent, but recently there has been a big push to put Minnesota sled hockey on the map.

In its fifth year, the Boundary Waters Sled Hockey Combine is a unique camp that offers disabled players the ability to not only learn the game on the ice, but also learn lessons off of it.

“Our purpose, our mission is to provide opportunities for sled hockey players. To provide opportunities for them to grow and become successful both in life and in hockey,” said Tony Lang a Co-Director of the combine.
The combine runs for five and a half days taking the players up to the Veterans on the Lake Resort in Winton. There the athletes where able to canoe and take a portage into the Boundary Waters.

“So this is a great exercise to grow as teammates to grow as leaders, to really learn about setting your expectations and not setting them too low. To learn where we can set those,” added Lang.

The event is an unforgettable and life changing combine, that keeps bringing players back.

“It’s my fourth year doing the camp and it’s a whole lot of fun. We always start in Superior with a couple of practice sessions and we always go on up to Ely and start the camp up there,” said camper Danny Lilya.

“We all have our own stories. The coaches are always there for you on the team building stuff they all build you up to be a better person. It’s just a great community,” concluded Danny.

The coaches are around throughout the whole camp, but are mainly there teaching these athletes how to be independent hockey players.

Our sons are disabled and I think we’ve made a very purposeful decision to not differentiate our children as being any different than anybody, any able bodied person. So we expose them to everything that we expose anybody else to with the expectation of, you know, we’re here to catch you if you fall, but we’re not going to do that unless absolutely needed,” stated Co-director of Boundary Waters Sled hockey Combine Dan Lilya.

The players were also provided unique off ice training sessions at the Heavy Metal Sports Center in Ely. There the athletes learned yoga, diet and nutrition amongst other things. Creating a truly well rounded camp.

From the second I got on the ice, I loved it and it was just the wind in my face, And it was just great, a great experience,” concluded camper Isaac Hess.