Mighty Penguins player Mark Scheinert loves to introduce children to the sport he loves during Inclusion on Ice. At Sunday’s event, he and his teammates while face off in a sled hockey scrimmage against the Wheeling Nailers and Wheeling Lightningbirds.
Mighty Penguins player Mark Scheinert will display the adaptive form of ice hockey he loves to local children and their families during a sled hockey scrimmage against the Wheeling Nailers and the Wheeling Lightningbirds.
The Sunday face-off is part of Inclusion on Ice, hosted by the Augusta Levy Learning Center, Easterseals Rehabilitation Center and the Wheeling Nailers.
Before the scrimmage, wheelchairs, walkers and sleds will have free reign of the Wheeling Park Ice Rink from noon to 2 p.m. The free skating event is the first way the event introduces children with disabilities to skating in an inclusive and welcoming environment.
Afterward, attendees will watch Scheinert and his teammates battle against local professional teams to introduce them to the competitive side of adaptive sports. A Q&A session between players and attendees will follow after the game.
Scheinert views Inclusion on Ice as an opportunity to educate children with disabilities on the sporting opportunities available to them.
Both Scheinert and his wife Sarah Riley Scheinert, who is his team’s manager, have spina bifida, a birth defect that has paralyzed them from the waist down. The opportunity to spread awareness about the different sports people with disabilities can play is important to the couple.
Scheinert was first introduced to sled hockey in 2016 by a friend who played for the Pittsburgh-based Mighty Penguins. From there, he was “hooked” on the sport.
Sled hockey is a form of ice hockey in which players sit on a single-bladed sled and use short sticks to propel across the ice and shoot the puck. While Scheinert typically traverses the ice in wheelchairs, sled hockey has provided Schienert with a new form of exercise and a competitive outlet.
Most rules of regular ice hockey carry over to its adaptive version. The main difference between the two versions is that, instead of traversing across the ice on skates, players sit in what Riley describes as a “bucket with blades underneath it.”
The switch between the use of arms as opposed to legs to move across the ice can create an adjustment period for the Nailers and Lightningbird players who give the sport a try during the scrimmage. Riley Scheinert recalled players from both teams telling her last year that sled hockey was “much harder than they thought it would be.”
“They just thought, ‘Oh, my arms aren’t going to get that much of a workout,’” she noted. “When you fall over on the ice, though, you can only use your core to pull yourself up, so it’s a lot of upper body movement.”
The opportunity to play against professionals as a recreational player is exciting for Scheinert, who loves to introduce professional players to sled hockey.
Scheinert, who boasts strong upper arm and core muscles from years spent on the sled, enjoys seeing professionals realize how difficult the sport is. He finds it gratifying when Nailers and Lightningbird players tell him and his teammates they make the sport “look easy.”
“We tell the players in response, ‘Well, it’s easy for us because we have no other way of doing this,’” added Scheinert. “I mean it’s easy for us but not for someone not disabled, so it was fun watching them realize how hard sled hockey is.”
Spreading awareness for the different opportunities people with disabilities have to play sports is important to the couple. Riley Scheinert noted seeing many kids “looking around with wide eyes” at last year’s game as they were introduced to sled hockey for the first time.
“These kids are able to see that even though they’re disabled, there are ways to play the same sports as able-bodied kids,” described Riley Scheinert. “There are many different ways of doing activities, you just have to research and see what’s out there.”
To see the opportunities for adaptive sports grow from their childhood is exciting for the couple, as they loved participating in adaptive snow skiing when they were younger. Riley Scheinert sees Inclusion on Ice as a good opportunity to introduce children with disabilities to the idea they can “be out there and active like everybody else.”
“If they grow to like the adaptive sport, they can always look to see if it’s part of the Paralympics,” added Riley Scheinert. “That can become a goal they want to reach, and this event helps foster that.”
On top of demonstrating what the Mighty Penguins offer on the ice, the team will hold a small basket raffle at the event’s resource fair at the White Palace during the free skate. The Mighty Penguins will also be accepting donations in addition to the raffle.