The 2012-13 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team defeated Korea, silver medalists at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships, twice en route to the title at the 2013 USA Hockey Sled Cup. Korea is a top threat to Team USA as it tries to defend its gold from the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
Gold is not good enough. The U.S. National Sled Hockey Team wants to be a part of the history books. Heading into the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, no sled hockey team has ever won consecutive Paralympic Games titles. Team USA hopes to change that, just like they became the first team to win consecutive world titles when they successfully defended their 2009 title in 2012.
Team USA topped Estonia 2-1 (shootout), lost to Czech Republic 2-1 (SO) and topped Japan 5-0 before moving onto the playoffs of the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey (A) World Championships in Hamar, Norway. In a 2-1 victory over Canada in the semifinals, goaltender Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) made 15 saves, several of which came in the final minutes of action. Forward Taylor Lipsett (Richardson, Texas), the team captain, tallied three goals and added an assist as Team USA defeated Korea, 5-1, to secure the gold medal.
Alexi Salamone, who was born in Briansk, Ukraine, only 14 months after the nuclear reactor meltdown in Chernobyl, scored the winning goal for Team USA in the gold medal game of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games against Japan.
Forward Alexi Salamone (Buffalo, N.Y.), defenseman Taylor Chace (Hampton Falls, N.H.) and Cash were named to the all-tournament team for their efforts.
Team USA’s toughest test on the road to Sochi came April 12-20, 2013, in Goyang City, Korea, when they played for a third straight world title. While Team USA has won the last three major championships awarded in sled hockey (2009 worlds, Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games and 2012 worlds) heading into the 2013 worlds, the Canadians prevailed in heartbreaking fashion.
Undefeated heading into the finale, Team USA allowed Canada to score the decisive goal at 2:07 of the second period. Cash made 14 saves otherwise but the one that got away proved to be the difference maker.
Team USA finished the season with a record of 14-3-0 (W-L-T).
In 2010, sled hockey became a mixed competition at the Paralympic Winter Games for the first time. Teams that are mixed gender are allowed up to 18 players, while all-male squads are limited to 17.
The sport follows the rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation with modifications. Instead of skates, players use double-blade sledges that allow the puck to pass beneath. Players use two sticks, which have a spike-end for pushing and a blade-end for shooting.
- No country has ever won consecutive sled hockey titles at the Paralympic Winter Games. Team USA won the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. In 2012, the United States successfully defended its 2009 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A) title, becoming the first ever back-to-back world champions.
- The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games could be a homecoming of sorts for Alexi Salamone (Buffalo, N.Y.), who was adopted from a Russian orphanage by a couple from Buffalo, N.Y. Salamone was born in the Ukraine near Chernobyl, the site of a nuclear accident that took place 14 months prior to his birth. His legs were amputated when he was 4. He medaled with Team USA at the two previous Paralympic Winter Games.
- Nikko Landeros (Johnstown, Colo.) and Tyler Carron (Fort Collins, Colo.) were teammates on their high school wrestling team in Colorado. Now the once-able bodied wrestlers are pursuing spots on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. One night while changing a tire, Carron and Landeros were hit by another vehicle and pinned between two SUVs. Both men had their legs amputated following the accident. In 2010, Landeros competed at the Paralympic Winter Games, while both men competed at the 2012 worlds. The duo now plays together on the Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey Team.
- The 2012-13 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team includes four military athletes who are vying for spots on the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games roster: goalkeeper Jen Yung Lee (San Francisco, Calif.); defenseman Rico Roman (Portland, Ore.); forward Paul Schaus (Buffalo, N.Y.); and forward Josh Sweeney (Phoenix, Ariz.). Lee, Roman and Sweeney are teammates on the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey Team.
- Jeff Sauer (Madison, Wis.), one of the most respected able-bodied hockey coaches in the world, will serve as the head coach of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, pending approval from the United States Olympic Committee. Sauer is currently in his second season as head coach of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. Sauer has coached a wide array of U.S. teams throughout his career including the sled hockey team at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee World Championship (A) in Hamar, Norway, where Team USA won gold, and the U.S. Men's National Team at the 1995 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden. Sauer's illustrious 31-year NCAA Division I college coaching career featured 655 wins (seventh all-time) and two national championships, both of which came during his tenure with the University of Wisconsin.
- USA Hockey and the USA Hockey Foundation recently created the GROW Special Hockey Grant Program to assist new and existing disabled hockey programs, including sled hockey. This new grant has two purposes, the first of which is to help with the initial costs of getting a new special hockey program off the ground, and the second is to provide assistance for existing special hockey programs in the purchasing of equipment through a cooperative partnership with Total Hockey. USA Hockey and the USA Hockey Foundation are committed to awarding a minimum of $25,000 to the GROW Special Hockey Grant Program for the 2012-13 season.
- To assist with the development of sled hockey across the country, USA Hockey created a sled hockey lending program, which provides sled hockey equipment to rinks across the country for camps and clinics.
Athletes to Watch
Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.)
Steve Cash is one of the most respected goaltenders in the world. In 2009, he helped the United States to its first-ever International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A) title, starting each game. The United States Olympic Committee recognized him as the 2009 Paralympic SportsMan of the Year. At the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, the second Games of his career, he did not allow a goal in five contests, stopping all 33 shots including a penalty shot attempt in the gold medal game. He received the “Best Male Athlete with a Disability” ESPY Award following the Games. Cash had a .923 save percentage at 2012 worlds. Cash was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) of the right knee in October 1992. At 3 years old, his leg was amputated.
Taylor Chace (Hampton Falls, N.H.)
In October 2002, Taylor Chace suffered a broken back and an incomplete spinal cord injury when he was hit during a hockey game as a member of the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s New Hampshire Monarchs at the age of 16. While studying at the University of New Hampshire less than two years later, Chace was introduced to sled hockey through the school's Northeast Passage program. He competed for the United States at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games, where Team USA won the bronze medal, and the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, where Team USA won the gold medal. He was named the tournament’s top defenseman. Following the Games, the United States Olympic Committee recognized him as the 2010 Paralympic SportsMan of the Year. His career has continued to flourish, even earning the IPC Athlete of the Month honor in December 2012 after he recorded the lone goal in Team USA’s 1-0 victory over Canada at the World Sledge Challenge. He was named best defenseman of 2013 worlds. Chance graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2011 with a sports studies degree.
Nikko Landeros (Berthoud, Colo.)
While changing a tire on the side of a Colorado road in 2007, Nikko Landeros and friend Taylor Carron were struck by another vehicle, an accident that resulted in both men having their legs amputated. Both are now members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. Landeros helped the U.S. to the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games, ranking second among Team USA defensemen with three points (1-2) in five games. He helped Team USA to a world title in 2012, tallying two goals, including one game winner. He appeared in all five games of the tournament.
Taylor Lipsett (Richardson, Texas)
Team captain Taylor Lipsett, a forward, found sled hockey at the grocery store. In 2002, while shopping with his mom, the Texas native met a woman whose son-in-law had just won the gold medal in sled hockey at the Salt Lake City 2002 Paralympic Winter Games. The next weekend, Lipsett was on the ice trying sled hockey for the first time. Now, 11 years later, he is one of the top athletes on the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team with two Paralympic Winter Games medals, the gold medal in 2010 and the bronze medal in 2006. At the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, he led the U.S. with five goals in five games. He helped Team USA to gold medals at the 2009 and 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A). In 2012, he led the tournament in points (8), goals (6) and game-winning goals (3). He notched a hat trick and added an assist in the gold-medal game. Lipsett, who has a finance degree from Southern Methodist University, was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disorder sometimes known as “brittle bone disease”. He is married to Kathleen.
Josh Pauls (South Plainfield, N.J. )
Josh Pauls has an unusual habit. Before each game he plays with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, he faces a Mr. Potatohead figure towards the opponent’s locker room. A serious or silly superstition, Pauls has had no shortage of success with Team USA. At 17, he was the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team that won the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. He also helped the U.S. to gold at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A), recording one goal and one assist while playing in all five games. He has now emerged as Team USA’s leading scorer in 2012-13 with 12 points on five goals and seven assists. Pauls was born without tibia bones in both legs. At 10 months old, both legs were amputated.
Alexi Salamone (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Alexi Salamone was born in Briansk, Ukraine, only 14 months after the now infamous nuclear reactor meltdown in Chernobyl. As a result, he was born with deformed legs, both of which were amputated at the Children’s Institute of Prosthetics in Moscow when he was 4 years old. Two years later, he was adopted by Joseph and Sue Salamone of Buffalo, N.Y. Salamone made his first U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in 2003. He has two Paralympic Winter Games medals, including the bronze medal from Torino in 2006. At the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, he scored the game-winning goal in the championship against Japan. Salamone also has four medals from the International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A), including gold medals in 2009 and 2012. At 2012 worlds, his six points (2-4) and four assists tied for second among tournament scorers. Salamone is attending Bryant & Stratton College, where he is training to become a human resource specialist.
The International Paralympic Committee will allocate eight team qualification slots in sled hockey for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, with the top-five countries from the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A), held April 12-20 in Goyang City, Korea, automatically receiving a qualification slot. The United States qualified by finishing second Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A).
The Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament will determine the remaining three (3) qualifying teams. The qualification tournament will consist of the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-ranked teams from the 2013 IPC Ice Sled Hockey World Championship (A) and the top three (3) ranked teams from the 2013 IPC Ice Sled Hockey World Championship (B). Any slot not used for the qualification tournament will be reallocated to the next ranked team from the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship (B). Up to three (3) teams from the qualification tournament shall be awarded the remaining seeded positions at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in order of their finish.
If Russia, the Paralympic Winter Games host country, has not qualified either through the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships (A) or the qualification tournament, then, only the first and second ranked teams from the qualification in the year 2013 shall be awarded the sixth and seventh seeded positions. Russia shall then be awarded the eighth seeded position at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
The International Paralympic Committee will allocate spots in the sled hockey competition for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games by Nov. 18, 2013, following the conclusion of the Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament.
For complete qualification criteria, click here.
The U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team was selected in July 2013 with the roster set to be reduced by one-spot by January 2014. The entire 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team will be named by the United States Olympic Committee no later than Feb. 21, 2014, the deadline to submit delegation rosters to the International Paralympic Committee.
USA Hockey is the National Governing Body for sled hockey. For media inquiries for USA Hockey athletes and staff, please contact Matt Trevor.
Revised Sept. 23, 2013