SLED HOCKEY: Bemidji’s Chloe Kirkpatrick chasing gold, opportunity with Team USA
Chloe Kirkpatrick hopes the first-ever Women's Para Ice Hockey World Challenge will help the game get into the Paralympics.
MOORHEAD — After seven years on ice, Bemidji’s Chloe Kirkpatrick has qualified to play for the U.S. Women's Sled Hockey Team in a historic showcase.
At only 17 years old, Kirkpatrick is one of the best sled hockey players in the world right now. Because of that, she will wear the red, white and blue for Team USA in Green Bay on Aug. 26-28 for the first-ever Women's Para Ice Hockey World Challenge.
It's something she never dreamed would happen when she took up the sport seven years ago.
"I didn't think I would go this far when I started hockey," she said.
Kirkpatrick is a member of HOPE, Inc., a Moorhead-based program helping those with mobility issues live out their athletic dreams. The program has allowed Kirkpatrick to become a multi-sport athlete, competing in everything from basketball to skiing and, of course, sled hockey.
The program has also pushed her closer to her dream: a trip to Italy in 2026 for the Winter Games.
"I want to be able to make it to the Paralympics and win a gold (medal) for USA," she said.
The chase for gold is currently on hold for Kirkpatrick and Team USA, however. In order for women's sled hockey to be qualified as an Paralympic sport -- like their male counterparts -- there has to be six teams. Right now, there are only three women’s teams: The United States, Canada and Great Britain. Those three are also the teams competing in the first Women’s Para Ice Hockey World Challenge, as well as a “World Team” consisting of other athletes across the globe.
Doubling in size for the sake of Paralympic recognition sounds like a daunting task, but with the first international tournament around the corner, many have high hopes that the dream can become a reality.
"Because of this event with the publicity, it is going to increase the chances greatly," said Bill Grommesh, director of HOPE, Inc. "So fingers crossed that this is going to have a big impact."
The tournament itself follows a round-robin style schedule on Aug. 26-27, with the bronze and gold medal games to follow on Aug. 28.
Kirkpatrick and Team USA open against Team Canada at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 26. Team USA then plays World Team at 4 p.m. on Aug. 27 and Team Great Britain at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 27. The bronze medal game is set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 28, and the gold medal game will start at 3 p.m. on Aug. 28.
A gold medal is the ultimate dream for Kirkpatrick, but the goal right now is much bigger.
"To grow the sport and (raise awareness) to people that there is a female side of hockey," she said.