I wrote about it last year, and I’m going to be covering it as much as I can this year, but the 2016 NHL Sled Hockey Classic starts today. Seriously, I love this tournament and would give anything to be able to be in Nashville to watch it in person.
This is now the 7th year of this tournament, in which teams hit the ice representing their local NHL team. The Nashville Predators and the Nashville Sled Preds are the hosts this year, opening the doors of the Ford Ice Center to the 300 sled hockey players who are participating in the event. There are 24 teams, each affiliated with an NHL club: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Those of you who are better with numbers than me will notice that there aren’t 24 NHL clubs listed there. That’s because several of the teams have more than one team affiliated to them. The teams are divided into different tiers, depending on their ability level, which allows for a much more competitive tournament, and the chance for five champions, rather than just one!
Last year there were four tiers, with the home team, Florida Panthers, coming in on top of their tier. Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres were the other big winners, but it’s literally anyone’s guess who will win this year.
Taylor Lipsett, formerly of the US National Team, will be heading to Nashville with the Dallas Stars, who have long had a fantastic relationship with their NHL namesakes.
“The requirement to participate is that your local NHL team supports and is in some way involved with your sled hockey organization. So the fact that more than half of the NHL teams support their local sled hockey programs is amazing.”
Last January some of the biggest names in NHL hockey took to the ice in sledges courtesy of Gatorade, and brought the sport to the attention of a wider audience. Since then, we’ve seen several NHL teams feature sled hockey during intermissions and other events. The Sled Classic is another chance for the NHL teams to show their support, and encourage their own fans to root for a different group of players wearing their team’s colors.
HockeyTV.com are also helping to make it easier for people to cheer on their favourite teams by streaming all the games of the tournament live through their web service. While it’s not free, you can certainly get a lot of sled hockey for your money and it’s well worth the cost!