Help for our own hero

Tuesday, 11th November 2014

As a few of you may be aware, one of our own sledge players, Doug Hankinson recently received help from Help For Heroes, in obtaining some new equipment as an ex-serviceman. He recently featured in an article in a previous programme, as well as on the Phoenix site and

It is now a few weeks later and his equipment has arrived so we took this opportunity to have a catch up with Doug to see how he is getting along:

What new equipment did you receive? And easy was the process of applying for funding?

I received new Boots, Shoulder Pads, carbon Sticks, and Razor Sledge. The process, once suggested by Karl Nicholson, was really easy. I got in touch with H4H, then provided an in-depth detail of my disability through Service, with back-up information from our Coach, Pete Hagan. A home visit was arranged for SSAFA to check some further details with me. Then everything back to H4H, for a final decision to be made. About two months from start to this point. Then just the waiting for Draft Wheelchairs to do the ordering of goods & final receipt which was about another month or so!

How has the new equipment helped you? And what are your aspirations for the future?

I am still working on that one. The tweaking of the sledge is both difficult & amazing. Trying to get that “just right” feeling with the seat & blades, can only really be done on the ice, taking into consideration your weight, leg length, straps used for bucket seat to hold you in. You don’t want to be sliding around in your seat never mind on the ice! I have already had a puck smash my right foot during training, but if it were not for the new boots, the pain would have been hell of a lot worse. The new sticks feel lighter & as they have a smaller blade width, may work out to be better for me! Time & patience are what I need to fine-tune the new equipment so it is like an extension of my body, but overall performance should be enhanced a few levels by the time the next BSHA sledge season starts in 2015. As for aspirations… well to try to stay injury free(with a disability!), well try not to get any worse! Work harder on phys & cardio and rest my shoulders now & then. Aim for a better personal performance overall, but I really need to put the all round effort into that with the on-ice training, at home training & gym work, and also eating well. Win at least the league next season with Manchester Phoenix Sledge Hockey Team, the double is attainable, just look at Peterborough Phantoms last season. The GB squad have a busy time next year in Sweden with the 2015 World Championships Pool B in March 2015, I have a few years hard training before I can even consider myself to be as good as these guys, but I really want to achieve that GB jersey before I hit the 50 mark!

Is there any other ways Help For Heroes have helped?

The main way that H4H has helped me is by allowing the grant for the purchase of this sledge equipment. They have offered for me to visit one of their rehab / holiday places, but with a young family it is something we will consider when we are in a more financially stable situation. Being out of work for health reasons & having a disability can sometimes be a burden, other times a blessing. I am looking at doing some voluntary work with an Ex-Services organisation, as I feel I owe it to help others as I have been helped over the last 15 yrs (Royal British Legion, SSAFA, War Pensions Agency (now SPVA), Royal Engineers Association, & now Help For Heroes). H4H helped me as a Disabled Ex-Serviceman. The rules were changed to allow ex-service personnel from before Iraq & Afghanistan, to be treated with the same dignity & respect as our younger generation of soldiers, I am very grateful for that change. I am sure there are or should be other organisations across the board, who are able to help fund other disabled players from all backgrounds, who just need that extra bit of financial assistance. After all where will our new Paralympians emerge from! You have to come & try sledge at least once, then if you like it come back again!

From the Sledge Hockey team and the whole Phoenix Organisation we are very thankful for their help in making sure Doug can get fully involved with the team. It was fantastic to catch up with Doug and find out all the good which has been achieved from the kind donation form Help for Heroes.

If you are interested in joining the team then they are always looking for new players to come down and try out the sport. Email for more information about training times.