The Johnstown Sitting Bulls kicked off a weekend full of hockey Saturday with the first Columbus Day Disabled Sled Hockey Challenge at Planet Ice.
Teams from Pittsburgh, Erie and Columbus, Ohio played a round robin format to open competition. A skills competition was held at noon with players from the Mighty Penguins, Blades, Mighty Otters and Sitting Bulls all participating.
“After refereeing four games now, I can’t believe the skill level and arm strength of some of the kids,” Tom Rizzo said before game No. 5 of the day. “They are lifting the puck and getting some hard shots off — that’s all arm strength. I’m really amazed and proud of the effort from these kids.”
The teams took time for lunch, before going back on to the ice for more competition in the afternoon.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” soon-to-be 12-year-old Vincent Spinelli of the Sitting Bulls said after lunch. “I got an assist on Nick Booth’s goal.”
The fifth grader at St. Benedict’s gave the tournament a sideways thumb.
“I like having a tournament here, but I like to travel to tournaments too. We go away and sometimes stay at hotels with swimming pools.”
Vincent’s dad Ron Spinelli, added, “I think this is nice for a first-time tournament. We have three teams who committed to come and a nice crowd. I think we show we can put something on like this. This is a nice size complex to have a tournament like this in.”
Russ White, Sitting Bulls business manager, was pleased with how the tournament was running early after working for two months to pull the event together.
“The teams are all within a four hour drive from here,” he said. “We sent them information on hotels and the rink. We will evaluate how things went in a week or so. This is just the first step for us. Our goal is to continue to grow this tournament and get more teams involved.