(CBS4) – For 23-year-old Robynne Hill, sled hockey is much more than a game.
“I can just be me out there on the ice,” she said. “My disability doesn’t matter.”
Robynne has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, juvenile degenerative disc disease and sympathetic reflex pain syndrome – all weakening the function her muscles and lower extremities. However, that’s hardly noticeable when she’s on the ice with her Colorado Sled Hockey team and crushing their opponents.
“It’s just the best feeling,” Robynne told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “Women can play hockey just as good as the guys, if not better.”
In fact, most of her opponents are guys at the Pacific Sled Hockey League tournament in Greeley this weekend. The three-day national tournament is hosted by the Warrior Avs, one of four teams from the Colorado Sled Hockey organization sponsored by the Colorado Avalanche. Organizers said they want this tournament to bring attention to the incredible women who play the sport – an adaptation of ice hockey designed for players with physical disabilities – and show how women deserve to be in the Paralympics.
“We’ve been hoping to be in the Paralympics for a couple years now,” Robynne, who also plays for the US Women’s Para Ice Hockey Team, said.
Right now, women’s sled hockey is not an official Paralympic event. The Paralympic committee only allows one woman on a team’s 17-man roster. Athletes like Robynne are fighting to change that by encouraging other young woman like her to play.
“Internationally, there’s not enough female athletes out there, but it’s definitely grown over the years. We can make it so much more,” she said. “We want [girls] to be inspired and not have their disability hold them back.”
Robynne explained more and more women around the world are joining the sport, so she’s hopeful there will be an all-female sled hockey Paralympic event by 2026.
“I want to be on that first [US] women’s team to go to the Paralympics and make history,” she said.
And, just like she does on the ice, Robynne is giving that fight everything she’s got.
“We won’t give up,” she said. “We want to play the sport and have the same opportunities that our male opponents have.”
The Pacific Sled Hockey League tournament continues through Sunday, October 20 at the Greeley Ice Haus – 900 8th Avenue in Greeley. It is free to attend.