Sledge hockey program gets disabled veterans on the ice (Photo: Ginna Roe, KUTV)

(KUTV) – A sledge hockey program at Steiner Aquatics Center in Salt Lake City is allowing disabled veterans to try their skills on the ice.

Bill Eskridge helped get the program started. He wanted to be able to get on the ice with his grandson.

“This sport right here is probably the most fun I’ve had since I lost my leg,” Eskridge said.

He is a disabled veteran who lost his leg in combat.

“The helicopter flying behind me landed on top of the one I was getting out of. The rotor blade came out of that one and cut my leg off,” he said. Eskridge’s leg had to be amputated. He ended up getting sick with gangrene, which led to other health complications, as well.

Since losing his leg, his goal has been to remain physically fit. He decided he wanted to give sledge hockey a try, so he reached out the VA. They partnered with Salt Lake County Adaptive Recreation and launched the team in November.

“When you’re playing it, you don’t really have limitations at all. Everybody has to sit in the sled, everybody has to propel themselves with sticks, so it’s a completely level playing field,” Eskridge said.

As many as 20 veterans come out to play the high-contact sport.

“They are getting physical benefits, emotional benefits, social benefits,” Heather Brown, a recreation therapist with the VA said.

“We don’t’ keep score we just come out and have fun,” Eskridge said.

The veterans enjoy the speed, but even more, the comradery.

“When I first lost my leg and I had a bullet hole in the other leg and it wouldn’t move, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do something physical again in my life,” he said.

“A lot of them [the veterans] find out that yes I can still do this,” Eskridge added.

The team is headed to Aspen, Colo. next week for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. They’ll meet up with 300 to 400 hundred other disabled veterans from all over the country and get the chance to play sledge hockey, ski and rock climb.