EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Sled hockey is a newer sport in Evansville. Just three years ago, Joel Claycomb created the Sled Dogs.
The program gives kids and adults that can’t play standing up hockey due to disabilities the opportunity to still hit the ice in a different way. The sport is played on sleds, with two mini-sticks that also act as icepicks to propel the player forward.
Even though the program started recently, Rian Likens is already a player that’s won a national championship in the sport just weeks ago. Likens plays for the Indianapolis Steel team because the Sled Dogs don’t have the numbers to field a full roster yet.
Likens was also invited to Team USA’s developmental camp with a chance to make the Junior Olympic team. Likens said what got him into the sport in 2019.
“I watched hockey and loved it. I tried out skating and couldn’t do it. I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t try anything else. Finally after a while I tried sled hockey and loved it,” said Likens.
The Sled Dogs were the team that introduced him to the sport. Joel Claycomb created the program because he wanted kids that had to watch their siblings play, be able to play as well.
“There was a little girl who was watching her brother play hockey and she was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t stand it. I got to the point where I had seen it too many times and I’m going to do something about it,” said Claycomb.
Claycomb brought on a partner and coach name Matt Rundle. Rundle worked in a program providing underprovided kids with the opportunity to play hockey. He always played the game standing up, until 2008 when he was diagnosed with MS.
For a decade Rundle didn’t play hockey, but taught it. When Claycomb called and mentioned the program, he knew he could hit the ice once again.
“I enjoyed watching kids develop themselves in the game and kind of live vicariously through them, until Joel called,” said Rundle.
The program is looking for more players to field a team. It is free, funded by private donors. If you know someone that may be interested you can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Tristatesleddogs/.