Power hockey is an adaptive sport designed specifically for individuals requiring the use of a motorized wheelchair in daily life. Power hockey differs from sled hockey, a Paralympic sport. Sled hockey is played by people who have great upper body strength. It would be impossible for players of power hockey to participate in sled hockey.
The power wheelchair serves as the primary source of strength and speed for the player. Many participants of power hockey have physical disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries. Players must have the cognitive ability to follow rules, strategy and other aspects of the sport.
Power hockey is most commonly played on a basketball court, as opposed to an ice hockey rink, for safety reasons. Also, individuals who play power hockey may have upper respiratory issues, so spending long amounts of time in a cold environment can affect their ability to play.
Power hockey equipment includes all-plastic hockey sticks, as many players do not have the ability to lift wooden hockey sticks. Instead of a puck, the game is played with a plastic ball, which allows for greater movement during the game. Many participants of power hockey simply use their motorized wheelchair to move and control the ball. The use of protective equipment, such as shin guards or eye protection, is encouraged, yet remains optional. Mostly a low contact sport, most of the contact in power hockey occurs when the motorized wheelchairs bump into each other.
While power hockey follows many of the same rules found in any ice hockey league, some rules have been adapted to suit the abilities of power wheelchair users. Goal tenders in power hockey are unable to reach down and freeze the ball. When the ball goes under the goalie’s power wheelchair, the referee blows the whistling, indicating a frozen ball.
Sports opportunities for electric wheelchair users are extremely limited, yet power hockey is played in many countries. There are teams in Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States. Pennsylvania offers a power hockey league called the Philadelphia Flyers PowerPlay, an official affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.