Coaching sled hockey: 'I found this and fell in love with it'

EUGENE, Ore. - Passing the puck, skating down the rink, and shooting on goal.

On Saturday Iraq War veteran James Oppelt helped coach about 40 people how to play sled hockey, a sport that gives players with a physical disability the chance to get on the ice.

"It was real rewarding for me," Oppelt said. "I was wounded in Iraq and the ability to play sports was taken from me. I found this, and fell in love with it."

So have many others.

12-year-old Kayla Bolinck suffers from Spina Bifida. She doesn't have feeling below her knees.

This is her second time playing sled hockey.

"The first time I was totally good, but then this time I keep falling, like 5 times in a row," said Bolinck.

Kayla's friend Elizabeth Keen skated right alongside while Jim Keen (Elizabeth's father) helped coach.

"I played hockey from my youth all the way up to my adult life," Keen said. "Now, I have my daughter out here who gets to share it with me."

He says the disabled players and their families feel a sense of accomplishment after participating.

"Dad's getting old. She can beat dad now," Keen laughed. "Once they get it down and they take off, they're having a blast. You get smiles and giggles the whole time. It's so worth it."

First-timer Robert Taylor said it's a feeling he'll never forget.

"I never thought I'd be able to do it," he says. "I'm glad I've got the chance to do it. I'm just going to take it one step at a time."

Taylor was injured in a car crash 21 years ago near Vancouver, Washington.

He says he used to let things stop him, but not anymore.

Taylor says he lives by Nike's motto.

"No time to mope. Just do it!"

The event was hosted by City of Eugene's Adaptive Recreation program and Lane Amateur Hockey Association. Ice time was donated by Performance Mobility and the Wounded Warrior Foundation.