The Anaheim Ducks today announced that the National Hockey League (NHL) club will play host to the 12th USA Hockey Sled Classic presented by NHL taking place at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena in Irvine Nov. 17-20. The four-day tournament, hosted by the Ducks for the first time, features 279 skaters from 23 sled hockey teams across the United States and Canada. First staged in 2010, the inaugural Sled Classic featured four teams and 46 players. This will be the first time an NHL team based on the West Coast has been selected to host the Sled Classic. The event is open to the public and free of charge with an option to donate to local sled programs.
Opened in 2019, Great Park Ice & FivePoint Arena was built to house a variety of ice sports, including sled hockey. All four rinks at Great Park Ice are sled accessible, allowing players the ability to remain in their sleds and skate off the ice into the bench area. Since the opening of the rink, the facility has hosted numerous Try Sled Hockey for free events where participants are provided with all sled hockey equipment needed to play the sport. In 2019, the Ducks hosted a two-day Sled Hockey Festival when four adult teams and three youth clubs competed in exhibition games. Additionally, the festival included a Learn to Play Warrior Hockey session, designed to create playing opportunities for injured and disabled former and current Members of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, & Coast Guard).
The San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey team based out of The Rinks – Poway Ice will represent the Anaheim Ducks. Prior to the Sled Classic, captain of the Ducks sled hockey team, and member of the U.S. Women’s National team Sarah Bettencourt will be joined by her Ducks’ teammate Aaron Loy to participate in the ceremonial puck drop tomorrow, Nov. 12 as the Anaheim Ducks face off against the Chicago Blackhawks at Honda Center (7 p.m.). Additionally, the San Diego Ducks sled hockey team will join the Anaheim Ducks for practice beginning at 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 14 at Great Park Ice. Ducks’ Sled Hockey team captain Sarah Bettencourt will demonstrate the basics of sled hockey including building a sled from scratch and demonstrating to Anaheim Ducks players the art of playing hockey while in a sled.
The tournament will consist of five divisions with pool play beginning on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. The championship games for each respective division will be held on Sunday, Nov. 20 at Great Park Ice. Participating teams in the tournament must have an official affiliation with an NHL club and will represent their affiliated club by wearing official NHL licensed jerseys with local club marks and logos. Sixteen NHL clubs will be represented during this year’s Sled Classic including the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Seattle Kraken, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, and Washington Capitals. In 2021, the New Jersey Devils played host to the event, which included 27 teams in five divisions competing at the Ice Vault Arena in Wayne, New Jersey. The Chicago Blackhawks sled program was crowned the Tier I champion, while the Pittsburgh Penguins won Tier II, Columbus Blue Jackets took Tier III, Vegas Golden Knights secured Tier IV and the New York Islanders brought home the Tier V title.
Among those competing are nine players from the U.S. Women’s National Sled Hockey Team who won the gold medal at the 2022 World Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge in August. Sarah Bettencourt (Anaheim Ducks), Lera Doederlein (Anaheim Ducks), Cathrine Faherty (Boston Bruins), Rachel Grusse (Philadelphia Flyers), Kaden Herchenroether (Pittsburgh Penguins), Robynne Hill (Colorado Avalanche), Erica McKee (Chicago Blackhawks), Monica Quimby (Tampa Bay Lightning), and Gabby Wake (Philadelphia Flyers) will represent their respective clubs in the tournament. Additionally, 13 players from the U.S. Men’s National Sled Team and 14 skaters from the U.S. Men’s Development Team are set to participate in the Sled Classic.
Sarah Bettencourt serves as the Founder and Director of Hockey Operations, Adult Team Manager and Captain of the Ducks Sled Hockey Team. In 2014, Bettencourt, who was serving as U.S. Marine Corps Captain at the time, was forced to retire from service due to permanent neurological damage she endured during helicopter pilot training. Following her retirement from the service, Bettencourt fell in love with the game of sled hockey and has dedicated herself to helping disabled athletes learn the sport. A recipient of USA Hockey’s Disabled Athlete of the Year Award in 2016, Sarah Bettencourt represents the U.S. in multiple sports serving as co-captain of the 2022 U.S. Para-Surf Team, in addition to being a member of the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team.
Paralympian and former 21st Duck Lera Doederlein will also represent the Ducks Sled Hockey team during the Sled Classic. In 2019, Doederlein was named the 21st Duck by the Anaheim Ducks, an honor given to an individual who embodies perseverance, character and courage. Born in Russia with a birth defect called Arthrogryposis, which effects mobility in the lower extremities, Doederlein elected to have surgery in 2017, undergoing a bilateral knee disarticulation and becoming a double amputee at the age of 14. Since her surgery, Doederlein has become an elite multi-sport athlete as a member of the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team in addition to representing Team USA at the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics in Nordic Skiing and Biathlon.
Fans can follow along throughout the weekend on the Sled Classic homepage. Use the hashtag #SledClassic to join the tournament conversation on social media. For the most up-to-date news on USA Hockey’s disabled hockey program, including information about all six disciplines of the sport, visit the Disabled Hockey section of USAHockey.com. For more information on the sport of sled hockey, visit the Sled Hockey section of USAHockey.com.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.