CANTON — There are 10 competitive wheelchair lacrosse teams in the country. Two of those teams are in New York state. Mark McKenna wants Canton to be home to the third.
On Saturday, players from the Buffalo Bandits wheelchair lacrosse team, their coach and manager were at the Canton Pavilion for a clinic to drum up interest and share some of their experience with local players and organizers.
Mr. McKenna founded the Mountain Warriors sled hockey team in 2011 after witnessing a wounded soldier have difficulty accessing exercise equipment at a Fort Drum gym. Mr. McKenna, a civil engineer at Fort Drum, recognized a need to provide wounded soldiers and athletes in the region with an opportunity to continue to be physical and compete in competitive athletic activities.
“I got a call about three weeks ago from the Buffalo coach and Norm Page the manager, who got me hooked up with USA Hockey and the sled hockey team,” Mr. McKenna said.
Some of the players on the Bandits wheelchair lacrosse team also played sled hockey — most notably Mr. Page’s son, Adam Page, a gold-medal Paralympic sled hockey player. They thought Mr. McKenna might be the right guy to help them expand wheelchair lacrosse in New York.
“I told him, I was sick and tired of driving to Wisconsin and driving to Colorado,” The Bandits’ coach Rich Randall said. “I want to play local teams, so we are trying to grow the game here.”
Mr. Randall and Mr. Page are hoping to launch teams in Rochester and Syracuse, but Mr. Page’s experience with Mr. McKenna and the Mountain Warriors brought them to Canton.
Mr. Page was the sled hockey representative for USA Hockey for 11 years, going around the country building up sled hockey programs, which is how he got to know Mr. McKenna.
“So this year, as we are trying to build this up regional, I thought of Mark (McKenna),” Mr. Page said. “Mark gets things done. He is unbelievable. Within a week he sent us an entire itinerary for the weekend.”
Mr. McKenna rounded up specially-made athletic wheelchairs from Move Along, inc., an adaptive sports organization in Syracuse, sticks from Youngs Bros. Lacrosse, raffle items from traditional lacrosse stick maker Jack Johnson, an appearance from national lacrosse champion Mike Thompson, coaches and athletes from the St. Lawrence University and SUNY Canton lacrosse teams and a crowd of volunteers to make the weekend a success.
“We’re looking for more players,” Mr. McKenna said. “Whether it’s hockey or lacrosse, we just want to grow both sports. We want to get more people to try it.”
Wheelchair lacrosse, Mr. McKenna said, offers a year-round opportunity for players who might already be involved in sled hockey.
“Plus we get the year-round use of the rink,” he said. “We could put this rink to use in the summer time.”