PEKIN, Ill.– Whether you’re on skates or in a sled, the Central Illinois Sled Hockey Association shows the only thing that matters on the ice is heart.
The organization started it’s Fall Brawl Tournament Saturday at the Pekin Memorial Ice Arena, which is a first in Central Illinois and won their first few games.
Michael Eganhouse has been a member of the team since it started in 2016 and he said the CISHA Thunder team is showing when it comes to sports, disabilities don’t matter.
“In disabled sports, people think that it’s a lot different or a lot slower, but it’s not,” Eganhouse said. “And I think that goes to show that we can play the same sports that everybody else can with the same intensity.”
The organization was started by Tim Kirk after he said his daughter, who has a disability, was denied entry on another hockey team.
“We were upset,” Kirk said. “At first we wanted to fight it but then we just decided to make our own team.”
The team started with just two players, Eganhouse and Kirk’s daughter, and has now grown to about 40 members. The ages of its current members range from five years old to 62.
Team member Grace Schraufnagel said she loves the fact that Thunder offers everyone the opportunity to be apart of something.
“It gives everybody a chance and that’s not like many sports,” Schraufnagel said.
Kirk said the sport is free for the members and they love the game, but the most difficult part is transportation for the players as they come from all over Central Illinois.
“Once they actually get here, they fall in love with it, so the hardest part is getting some parents to bring their kids because they don’t want them to get hurt,” Kirk said.
Eganhouse said the team is always looking for new players and he recommends it to anyone who wants to join. He said he’s grateful the organization gives him the chance to finally play the sport he loves.
“I’ve always loved hockey and I never got the chance to play,” Eganhouse said. “It feels like when I’m playing that I’m not disabled. It gives me the chance to feel equal to everyone and kind of level the playing field.”