At the 2019 Canada Winter Games, one sport that carried a wave of unexpected buzz was wheelchair basketball.
For the gold medal game when Team Alberta squared off against Team Ontario, 4,800 fans, many of whom were new to the game jammed the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
Alberta went on to win gold and in the process created new audience of followers in Red Deer.
“Once you see the high (quality) teams play, you can tell that we train and are committed to it. It’s an exciting sport,” said Alberta wheelchair basketball coach Darrell Nordell.
Nordell has been spreading the good word about wheelchair basketball for nearly three decades.
He has been to the Paralympic games, national and world championships.
Most recently, he was one of the architects that led Team Alberta to gold at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
It’s with that connection that Nordell hopes to help build the game at the grassroots level.
His captain, Bradon Doll, was a force at the Games leading all scorers with 140 points. Doll along with several of his gold medal-winning teammates will be in Red Deer on March 16, to run Have-A-Go sessions of wheelchair basketball for people ages 10 and up. That includes able-bodied individuals and people with disabilities. The sessions, at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“It’s give it a go, come out, try it out and realize, it looks a lot harder than what you watched at the Games and hope that you fall in love with it,” Nordell said, adding the sessions will also help recruit for the Alberta team that will compete at the next Canada Games.
At the Games in Red Deer, wheelchair basketball was a such a huge success, organizers of this event hope that they can piggyback off that interest and show people the nuances of the game.
“It creates an appreciation for not only the sport but some of those athletes with disabilities and what they are able to do,” Nordell added.
If there is enough interest at the sessions next week, Nordell hopes they can set up a program in Red Deer and establish a presence in town.
Interested individuals should pre-register through Alberta Northern Lights Basketball at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sessions are free but only 30 wheelchairs are available per session and drop-ins are also encouraged.