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Grand Rapids Sled Wings Hope National Title Inspires Others
Josh Carlisle doesn’t give a typical answer when asked to explain what the best part about winning a national championship is. Sure, the medals are nice, and so are bragging rights. Everyone loves a nice big trophy, too, and who doesn’t like seeing all their hard work pay off?

But the Sparta High School student and sled hockey standout said he hopes what he and his teammates on the Grand Rapids Junior Sled Wings accomplished encourages others to chase their dreams as well. “It proves that disabled kids like us can do anything anyone else can,” said Carlisle, 15, who is a defenseman on the squad.

The Sled Wings participated in the 8th annual 2012 National Disabled Hockey Festival earlier this month in Dallas, and the squad captured top honors in the B-Pool Youth Division, culminating with an 8-1 victory over a Wisconsin-based team in the championship game.

It was the second national title for the Sled Wings, who won the championship in 2009 at the finals in Buffalo as well. The Sled Wings, which recently completed their 12th season, are based out of Griff’s Ice House in Grand Rapids. The team consists of 12 players from across the West Michigan area, ranging in age from 8-to-18 years old.

Carlisle has cerebral palsy, which affects the left side of his body. However, unlike many of his teammates, Carlisle does not use a wheelchair. He said his older brother played hockey, and nothing was going to stop him from doing the same. Carlisle added that his positive attitude is shared by his teammates, which explains how the Sled Wings got the job done in Dallas.

“We played as a team,” Carlisle said. “We played smart hockey, and most of all, we played with heart. We went out there and didn’t let anyone walk over us.

“They are very amazing teammates, and it is a privilege to get to know these kids. We hope to get more kids coming out. There is always a spot on the team for them.”

Standouts throughout the national tournament included Aaron Wemple, who finished with 18 goals in five games. James Sahnow had seven goals and Tanner Gentry five. Goal keeper Tanner Vandermolen earned all three of the Sled Wings’ victories in the tournament.

“We have some really strong older guys who played a positive role for the young guys,” said Linnette Eding of Hamilton, who has coached the Sled Wings for the past 10 years and receives help from assistant coaches Tyler Anderson and Chris Carlisle.

“The younger guys have picked it up so fast because of our experienced older guys. We had five new guys this year, and they have all done really, really well, thanks to the experienced ones.” Published April 24, 2012

Spina Bifida Hasn’t Stopped Coopersville Teen from Going National with Sled Hockey
Susie Kluting may use a wheelchair to get around, but she’s found her freedom on the ice.

The 19-year-old from Coopersville has spina bifida, but she is far from defined by that part of herself. She has tried tennis, rock climbing, swimming, water skiing and snow skiing, but her life changed about 12 years ago when she tried sled hockey. Now, she’s a member of the women’s United States national team.

“I don’t think I liked it at first, but now I love it,” said Kluting, who plays for the Grand Rapids Sled Wings. “I had done tennis every once in a while, but I wasn’t really competitive in that. But sled hockey is different.”

Kluting will be a part of Tuesday’s annual sled hockey game with the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Sled Wings. The game, which features members of the Griffins and Sled Wings on mixed teams, is set for 7 p.m.at Griff’s IceHouse at Belknap Park.

Kluting first learned about sled hockey at age 7 through the adaptive sports program offered by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. “It’s amazing how it has changed,” she said. “The first year was filled with volunteers on the ice, with kids tipping over. But now, the newer kids that join, they catch on a lot quicker.”

For her mother, Terrie, sled hockey was originally just another adventure. “At first, it was something that fit into her schedule,” she said. “It just developed over time where now it’s become a big part of her life.”

In sled hockey, players sit in low-slung buckets with two blades beneath them. They turn by using their hips. Players propel themselves with two sticks, which have sharp points on one side and the face of a hockey stick on the other.

At last year’s nationals in New York, Kluting was with the Sled Wings and saw the women’s national team playing. “I was watching them and the manager saw me and we talked and she let me know through emails that there was a camp in June in New Jersey. It was a fun weekend to get to know people and getting to know the coaches.” Afterward, she was nominated by Sled Wings coach Steve Kozlowski and, in early February, was accepted.

Unlike the men’s team, the women’s national team has yet to be recognized as a sport for the Paralympics, mostly because of a lack of national competition. For now, they scrimmage other teams, including men, when not playing for their local teams.

“I think that will change soon,” Kluting said. “There are more and more people playing, so it’s just a matter of time.” And she will keep playing.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “I can still get much better. There are a lot of techniques - how to shoot better, turning better - that I still want to learn because there are some really good players out there.” Published February 27, 2012

Michigan Hockey, To Add a Disabled Hockey Story to their Publication
This Monthly publication, which has been around for 20 years, has announced plans to include an article about disabled hockey in each of its future issues. Their first article features our very own Sled Wings! Go to MichganHockeyOnline.com, click on the link for the current issue, and go to page 40 for the full story. Published August 18, 2011

Jenison’s Tyler Anderson named to U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey team
Tyler Anderson was named to the 17-man roster for the 2011-12 U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey team on Tuesday. The roster for the developmental team was selected following tryouts in July in Rochester, N.Y. Anderson, a defenseman, is one of seven returnees from last year’s squad. The 20-year-old Jenison native also is a member of the Grand Rapids Sled Wings and a student at Grand Rapids Community College. He was the only player from Michigan to make the squad. Published August 2, 2011

2010-2011 Junior Sled Team Named | Download full roster
Colorado Springs, CO. – USA Hockey today announced the 17 players who will skate for the U.S. National Junior Sled Hockey Team during the 2010-11 season. Among the 17 are seven returnees and 10 newcomers.

Team USA will take part in multiple camps throughout the course of the season as well as a pair of exhibition series against Canada’s national junior sled hockey team.

“We’re very excited to have so many new faces on the team this year,” said Gregg Marinari, head coach of the 2010-11 U.S. National Junior Sled Hockey Team. “The level of interest in our sport is clearly growing. I’m looking forward to working with these players and bringing new talent into the USA Hockey fold.”

The seven returning members from last year’s squad include goaltender Danny Hefley (Wexford, Pa.); defensemen Tyler Anderson (Jenison, Mich.), John Mollica (The Plains, Ohio) and Mason Newbold (Lockport, N.Y.); and forwards Raymond Beck (Sicklerville, N.J.), Connor Fee (Spotswood, N.J.) and Ryan Pelletier (Columbia, Conn.).

Among the newcomers are goalie Justin Kreger (Waterford, Wis.); defensemen Chris Melton (Zeeland, Mich.), Sam Mumper (Dublin, Ohio) and Tim Shoemaker (Lawtons, N.Y.); and forwards Athan Blaine (Swarthmore, Pa.), Bryan Genovese (Oceanside, N.Y.), Nevin Gray (Greensburg, Pa.), Alex Knapp (Macomb, Mich.), Daniel Santos (North Merrick, N.Y.) and Kristina Vaughn (Cory, Pa.).

Seven states are represented among the 17 members of the U.S. National Junior Sled Hockey Team, including Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin … A complete 2010-11 schedule will be available at a later date … Head Coach Gregg Marinari served as the assistant coach of the 2009-10 U.S. National Junior Sled Hockey Team … Assistant Coach Kip St. Germaine is a three-time U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team member (1998, 2002, 2006) and most recently skated with the 2009-10 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. Published August 11, 2010

Thursday July 15th, Tavern On The Square will be hosting a happy hour fundraising event from 5:00–7:00p.m. to benefit Rinks To Links and The Grand Rapids Sled Wings! Profits from the food and drink will be donated to the cause so please come downtown to Grand Rapids and support this great local business, enjoy some great food and drink, and help us spread the word! We look forward to seeing all of you there with your friends and family. Please check out Tavern On The Square on Facebook and also at their site www.tavernonthesq.com. If you can’t make the golf outing, this would be a great way to show your support, raise some money and enjoy some great food and drinks! Published June 23, 2010

Kudos to Crytal Clean, an automotive detailing company here in West Michigan, who has contributed $1,000 as a Center Ice Sponsor for this year’s golf outing! Crystal Clean is a first-time sponsor and we welcome their support. Published June 16, 2010
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Much gratitude to Spartan Stores who has sponsored our golf outing at the Hat Trick Sponsorship level of $500! Spartan Stores is one of the nation’s leading grocery suppliers and retailers, and has always been one of our loyal sponsors. Published June 14, 2010
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A big thanks to McGuire’s Resort who is donating a three-night lodging package this year! It will include three rounds of golf for two people, and a hot continental breakfast each morning (cart not included). McGuire’s will also be providing a free green fee for each golfer attending the 2010 Rinks To Links Golf Outing. McGuire’s Resort is located 1.5 hours north of Grand Rapids. The resort offers 120 rooms with many different styles, an 18-hole golf course and a 9-hole golf course, two restaurants, indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, basketball court, tennis courts and more. Published June 7, 2010
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Our continued gratitude to Equity Commerce for committing to a $1000.00 Center Ice sponsorship level for a 3rd consecutive year! Equity Commerce is a credit card processing company that launched in 2004 to provide new options within the payment processing industry. They equip merchants with the ability to accept credit and debit cards, check conversion and guarantee, ATM placement and ACH among other services so they can be successful in the highly competitive economy. Published May 12, 2010

Dematic, a supplier of logistics systems for factories, warehouses and distribution centers around the world, has designated their June 25 “jeans day” proceeds to benefit the Rinks to Links organization. Employees have the option to donate $5.00 to a different charity each week, and in return they get to dress down. Published May 1, 2010

Congratulations and Good Luck to Sled Wing Tyler Anderson. As part of the Team USA Junior Sled Hockey Team, Tyler is attending the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver this Tuesday through Sunday and will take part in scrimmaging Team Canada’s Junior Sled Hockey Team a couple of times while they are there! Rinks To Links is… very proud of Tyler and all of his Team USA Junior Team members! Go USA!  Published March 13, 2010