Kyler Quelch ’27 said his first year at Merrimack College so far has been a real score. In addition to studying communications, Quelch has been paving his own path as a para athlete in sled hockey.
“I really wanted to come here because this was my best opportunity to be a student and an athlete,” said Quelch, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair to move around. “I wanted to continue to work on my journalism and communication skills while continuing to play. There aren’t a lot of (sled hockey) programs around.”
Quelch plays for the Boston ICE Storm sled hockey team. The team has used Lawler Arena for games and practice for years, but Quelch is the first Merrimack student ever to join their ranks.
All but one member of the Boston ICE Storm have some form of physical limitation. Quelch said he hopes to see more able-body people join in as it’s a sport just like any other.
“People think that disabled sports can be a little less rugged, but it’s definitely not,” he explained. “It’s a typical sport.”
Players use two sticks to balance themselves on their sleds and pass around the puck. Just like the NHL, there are five players per team on the ice at any given time,
This isn’t Quelch‘s first time on the ice. Back home in Vermont, he played for the Central Vermont Pioneers since he was 10 years old.
“I tried baseball when I was younger,” he explained. “I could sort of run but I kind of became DH and player-coach on the bench. My doctor’s office told my mom about sled hockey and she asked me if I wanted to watch practice. I was overwhelmed with joy. Just to have that experience was a miracle for me. I finally had a group of people around me who understood my disability. It was really awesome having that camaraderie. I haven’t looked back since.”
When it came time to choose a college, Quelch said he was drawn to Merrimack because of its accessibility options.
“They do a tremendous job here,” he said. “Most schools, especially in the northeast, are not that accessible. Their ability to adapt is incredible, so huge kudos to them. It’s not easy to do.”
After graduation, Quelch hopes to use his writing and journalism skills to advocate for those with disabilities.
“I’m going to continue to keep exploring things and keep spreading awareness of sled hockey and people with disabilities here on campus,” he said.