LAKE FOREST — Deafening crowd noise showed the enthusiasm Lake Forest College students and the community have for the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) during its eighth annual Sleds Are Coming game January 28 at the Alumni Memorial Ice Arena on campus.
One end of the arena was packed with students in white shirts and on the other end Foresters were adorned with black shirts—all with thunder sticks—as they cheered a GLASA White team and a GLASA Black team in an intramural sled hockey game.
The team cheering sections consist of Lake Forest College athletes who organize themselves into cheering sections, according Forester Athletic Director Jackie Slaats. Chase Creviston, a junior wide receiver on the football team from New Berlin, Ill., helped organize the Whites.
“It’s exciting and a lot of fun to watch,” Creviston said. “It’s a chance to help out and give back to the community.”
Separating the Lake Forest College students in the middle of the bleachers were fans who came to see the teams play and participate in other events on the ice in between periods of the game. The stands were full with people standing behind the ice on both ends. Slaats said seating capacity is 800.
The game is played on sleds rather than skates with each player using two shortened sticks. The players are strapped onto the sled sitting upright. Bob Swanson, one of the players, said the sticks are used to help steer the sled as well as move the puck. There is more to propulsion than the sticks.
“You use your body and your sticks,” said Swanson. When a stick is raised to control the puck or shoot, it turns into a balancing act for the players.
The GLASA led hockey program has been done in partnership with the Falcons Hockey Association in Highland Park, according to Cindy Housner, the organization’s founder and executive director.
Hockey players were not the only ones getting cheers from the crowd. Before the game, the Kluchka family of Lake Bluff was honored with the JJ O’Conner Achievement Award for the contributions they have made to GLASA and the sled hockey program in particular.
Owners of the Hot Shot Ice Arena in Lake Bluff, the Kluchka family has been part of GLASA sled hockey since its inception 10 years ago, according to Jerry Kluchka. He said the relationship started when SLASA approached Hot Shot for ice time.
Kluchka owns and operates Hot Shot with his wife, Becky Kluchka, and their three sons—Russell Kluchka, Tim Kluchka and Matt Kluchka.
“There wouldn’t be GLASA sled hockey without them,” said Housner.
Jerry Kluchka said Hot Shot provides the ice time for the sled hockey program at a “substantial discount,” houses all the equipment and does a little relationship building as well. Becky Kluchka said she has enjoyed getting to know the hockey players over the years.
“I smile a lot and they smile back,” Becky Kluchka said. “You can see how much fun they’re having when they play. We see them as hockey players and the athletes they are.”
The partnership with the college started eight years ago when Housner reached out to Slaats. Slaats said it was a natural fit bringing the college and the greater community together for a good purpose.
Slaats said the relationship has grown. Three year ago a wheel chair basketball game began played in the college’s gym. As a result of the school’s efforts, the college received the Award of Merit from the National Association of Division III Administrators, for the Sleds Are Coming, according to Slaats.