“I am completely honoured to be included in the Ones to Watch. Not only are there so many great players in the world already, but the sport’s popularity is constantly growing and players are getting better every year.”
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has included six ice sledge hockey players on its Ones to Watch list, which was revealed on Tuesday (8 October) with exactly 150 days to go until the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
The six players included are: Canada’s Greg Westlake and Brad Bowden, USA’s Steve Cash and Josh Pauls, Russia’s Dmitry Lisov and Norway’s Rolf Pedersen.
More athletes from the sport may be added to the Ones to Watch campaign following the conclusion of the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Qualification Tournament, which takes place from 20-26 October in Torino, Italy.
The IPC’s Ones to Watch initiative for Sochi 2014 will showcase the top winter athletes around the world, with all of the selections having won medals on the international stage, in addition to strong appearances in the media.
Westlake headlines the list, having captained Canada to gold and being named Best Forward at the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool in Goyang, South Korea.
In his career, Westlake has racked up more than 230 points on the ice, and he was part of Canada’s last gold-medal Paralympic performance at the Torino 2006 Games.
Westlake said: “I am completely honoured to be included in the Ones to Watch. Not only are there so many great players in the world already, but the sport’s popularity is constantly growing and players are getting better every year.
“It is becoming increasingly more difficult to stay on this list, so anytime you can make a list like this with some other tremendous athletes it is a really special thing to be a part of.
“I know that everyone on this list and many more who could have been included will be working hard to give their country the best possible chance to win a gold medal in Sochi, so making this list is also a reminder to keep training at a high level.”
On the other side of the puck, American goaltender Steve Cash will also be entering his third Paralympics. At the Vancouver 2010 Games, Cash lived up to his nickname “Money,” as he didn’t allow a single goal in the entire tournament en-route to the USA winning gold.
Last season was one of Cash’s best, posting his best goals against average (GAA) of his career at 0.79 to go along with a .926 save percentage and five shutouts.
Lisov, meanwhile, has been a star for a Russian team that’s on the rise. He has helped Russia qualify for their first Paralympics in the sport after starting up a team just three years ago, and he led them to a bronze-medal finish at last season’s World Championships.
Despite being 44, Pedersen is still considered one of the game’s all-time greats as he prepares for his fourth Paralympics in the sport. He’s still searching his first ice sledge hockey Paralympic gold, though, having won silver twice and bronze once with the Norwegian team.
Pauls, a rising star forward on Team USA, is coming off a masterful season on the sledge, in which he scored nine goals and recorded 11 assists to lead his squad. He’s become known among the media as “Spudsy,” as he’s a very superstitious athlete who can often be seen looking towards a Mr. Potatohead figure before each game.
Bowden rounds out the list as Canada’s assistant captain and two-time Paralympic gold medallist – once in ice sledge hockey and once in wheelchair basketball. He led his team in scoring at last year’s World Championships.