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Colorado woman becomes champion for sled hockey's expansion

Colorado native Robynne Hill has become the state's first woman to make the Women's National Sled Hockey team.

LITTLETON, Colo. — Colorado has seen a lot of success in the sport of hockey. The University of Denver won the NCAA championship and the Colorado Avalanche are defending Stanley Cup champions.

However, there’s a side of the game some players would like to see grow. Robynne Hill is the only woman from Colorado to make the Women’s National Sled Hockey team. Hill shared her dreams for the sport and where she thinks it can go.

Sports have been part of Hill’s life since she was a child. While playing soccer in middle school, she noticed she couldn’t keep up with the other athletes on her team. It took four years of medical visits and tests before she learned why she couldn’t match her teammate’s speed and endurance. 

At 16, doctors diagnosed Hill with spastic dysplasia cerebral palsy. The diagnosis means she experiences tightness and soreness in her muscles requiring the use of leg splints and sometimes a wheelchair.

Credit: Robynne Hill

As a kid who loved sports, the struggles the condition caused were a blow to Hill’s spirt. In speaking of how life was at the time, she said, “sports was an outlet for me. So, during middle school, it was so hard for me to find a place. To find where I’m supposed to be.” 

Hill’s mom, Stephanie Perry, eventually helped her find that outlet once again.

Perry is a retired special education teacher who learned about sled hockey more than a decade ago while working on a project with one of her students. 

Hill explained that there isn’t a lot about the sport that’s different from its standing counterpart. 

“You’re just lower to the ice, you have two sticks instead of one. You can hit people still and that’s awesome.” 

Hill believes anyone who likes standing hockey would find a lot to love about sled hockey.

Hill began playing sled hockey 11 years ago with the Colorado Springs Tigers and said she fell in love with it. She tried out for the USA Women’s National team in 2013 and made it. She became the first woman from Colorado to achieve this accomplishment. When asked how it felt to hold that mantel, Hill said, “[it’s] pretty awesome.”

At the end of August, Hill played on Team USA in the inaugural Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge. The event took place in Green Bay, Wisconsin with four teams competing: Team USA, Team Canada, Team Great Britain, and Team World. Team USA brought home gold with a 5-1 in the finals against Team Canada.

Hill said her teammates were thrilled with their victory. She believed it meant more than just taking home a gold medal. 

“It wasn’t just about ourselves. It was about the future and young girls knowing that they can do anything they put their minds to," Hill said.  

Hill said the event was a great step forward for women’s sled hockey. She and her teammates have been trying to grow interest in women’s sled hockey for years. They hope to see their team alongside the men’s team in the Paralympics.

When not playing on the national team, Hill also plays on the Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey team. The co-ed group includes multiple Paralympians who are part of the Men’s National Sled Hockey team. Hill said many of those she plays with become like family. 

“It’s so awesome to see my teammates make the men’s Paralympic team and go to the Paralympics," Hill said. "It’s awesome, but at the same time it’s hard. [Because] we want the same experience. We’ve been fighting for this opportunity for so long. And I just want to spread awareness that we are out here. We exist.”

Hill expressed her hopes that women’s sled hockey will make it to the Paralympics by 2030. In the meantime, she’s going to continue playing her favorite sport and doing what she can to help others experience the same joy it brings her. 

“It’s more than just about hockey. It’s about creating those memories, team bonding…it’s a true friendship that no one could take away from you or replace.”

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