For the first time in our 25-year history, the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey organization sent four teams to an out-of-state destination for the 2022-2023 USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival Held this year in St. Louis, MO, for four days in April, our teams battled in one youth tier and three different adult tiers of competition against other sled hockey teams from across the country.
Mighty Penguins sled hockey began 25 years ago with an introduction of the sport to families from Shriner’s Hospital volunteers. A handful of our families who are still involved today then had the vision to bring sled hockey to Pittsburgh! Because of their dedication to provide an inclusive and competitive sport to our area, we have reached hundreds of children and adults living with disabilities.
Our teams and family members took the road, air, and even chartered buses to make the long trip to St. Louis. Coached by Leigh Anne Kustra and Scott Gelston, our youth (Junior Black) team competed in the top youth tier and made it to the semi-final round. Coached by Nate Manual and James Michael along with assistance from Evan Buchheit, our Adult Gold team were mostly new to this level of national competition but made great strides in learning how to work as a team and came home a much stronger unit. We are proud of each athlete who gave it their all and represented our organization with professionalism and good sportsmanship.
Two of our Adult teams returned as the champions in their divisions: The Senior Team are the reigning Tier 1 Champions, and it showed. Coached by Ray Harding, Mark McCoy, and Brian Knotts, the Senior Team finished undefeated in their Tier 1 bracket to win the championship in a nailbiter shoot out! Goalie Joe Gibson made the winning save to conclude and commemorate his successful 10-year sled hockey career. We wish Joe the very best in his future endeavors. Equally exciting, our Adult Black Team, coached by Joe McCormick and Lou Ruzzi, gave their all and won the Tier 5 Championship.
The experience of traveling as a team is priceless. The athletes enjoyed the amenities St. Louis has to offer and even with a very busy hockey schedule, we were able to capture a group photo of the four represented teams (attached) and enjoy a group pizza party. Several athletes also managed to visit the St. Louis arch and attend the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. the Cardinals game. Overall, this trip was fun, competitive, and a great success.
It takes a village to keep our organization running and the dedication of our athletes, coaches, families, and volunteers for the past 25 years has continued to bring joy and success to all involved. A tremendous thank you to our coaches and board members who volunteer their time. For more information on the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey, Inc. organization and ways to volunteer, please contact Christine Hupkovich at: [email protected].
Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey proudly represented the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 12th Annual USA Hockey Sled Classic, presented by the NHL. The tournament took place November 17-20, 2022 at Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena in Irvine, California. According to USA Hockey, each participating team is required to have an official affiliation with an NHL member club and must represent their affiliated NHL club by wearing official NHL licensed jerseys with local club marks and logos. Mighty Penguins have proudly represented the Pittsburgh Penguins annually since 2010.
Both the Mighty Penguins Senior team and the Adult Black faced competitive teams in their divisions. Mighty Penguins Senior team went undefeated through their series. The team retained their title as the 2022 Adult Sled Tier II Champions beating Minnesota Wild! Mighty Penguins Adult Black made it into the final game and were named the 2022 Adult Sled Tier V Runner-Up to the Chicago Blackhawks!
Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey, Inc.
UPMC Lemieux Sports Center 8000 Cranberry Springs Drive Cranberry Township, PA 16066
July 1, 2022
MIGHTY PENGUINS SLED HOCKEY, INC. ANNOUNCES CHANGES
TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR 2022-2023 SEASON
Dateline: Pittsburgh, PA — After serving in the position for six years, Joe McCormick is stepping down as President of the Board and will assume the role of Treasurer. Mark McCoy, an integral part of the organization since its inception in 1998, will be stepping in to replace McCormick as President. McCoy has served in several roles over the years including Coach and Vice President of the Board.
Erica Burg, the current Treasurer, is stepping down from the Board after serving five years in the position. Erica has been a big supporter of the Mighty Pens (MP) in many ways including providing photography services and bringing new members to the Board like current Operations Manager/Coach James Michael and Justin Hewitt, a respected detective with the Cranberry Township police department. In addition, she brought numerous volunteers to help at MP practices and events whose talents included videography and fundraising as well as bringing other hockey teams to participate in team scrimmages/fundraising events with MP athletes.
Martha Martin, current Secretary, is also stepping down from the Board after four years. She has supported the organization in many other ways such as introducing volunteers and making connections for jerseys and grant opportunities.
We thank all of our board members for their important service to the organization. Other current and oncoming Board members include: Dan McCoy, Jim Southworth and, effective July 1, 2022, Tod Herchenroether, and Leigh Anne Kustra.
To learn more about our organization or to get involved with our amazing athletes, please visit https://penguinssledhockey.org or contact Christine Hupkovich at [email protected].
The Mighty Penguins Junior team enjoyed a great season! The team has been dedicated to attending scheduled practices and their hard work shows on the ice. We are grateful to have parents and coaches who made the commitment to attend several tournaments. Sled hockey provides our players with exciting opportunities to travel. Tournaments are a fun team bonding experience while providing the opportunity to see new cities along the way.
Players from two teams combined to travel and worked together to clench first place in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the 2022 Griff’s Sled Hockey Classic! Both junior teams went on to play well at our final competition of the season. The 2022 USA Hockey Disabled Festival was held on home ice in Pittsburgh. It was amazing for our players to experience the support of our community while showcasing our city.
The Mighty Penguins Junior Gold and Junior Black teams have been enjoying a busy tournament season. Both teams began their season at our home tournament in October. So far this season they traveled to Wooster, Ohio to compete and played through the semi-finals. Keeping a busy schedule, the teams were off to Columbus, Ohio to compete at the Ohio Sled Invitational in January and then to Youngstown, Ohio in February, and will be on their way to Grand Rapids, Michigan in March.
Both teams are enjoying a great travel season. We are proud to see the growth and development of all of junior sled hockey athletes as they accomplish great things on the ice. Good luck Mighty Penguins!
A special thank you to the Pittsburgh Penguins for continuing the tradition of endorsing two of our adult teams to represent the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2021 USA Hockey Sled Classic sponsored by the NHL. The Mighty Penguins have participated in the USA Hockey Sled Classic annually since the very first tournament in 2010. In order to participate in the USA Hockey Sled Classic a NHL team affiliation is a requirement. The 11th Annual USA Hockey Sled Classic was held in Wayne, NJ at the Ice Vault Arena.
With the support of the Penguins, the Mighty Penguins Senior and Adult Black teams traveled to New Jersey. The teams enjoyed meeting up with friends from teams across the country and especially enjoyed the intense competition. We are very proud of the accomplishments of both participating teams. Our Senior team won the Championship in their division. Congratulations Seniors, 2021 USA Hockey Sled Classic Tier II Champions! Our Adult Black won second place in their division. Congratulations Adult Black, 2021 USA Hockey Sled Classic Tier IV – second place! We look forward to returning in 2022!
We are back on the ice and ready for a fun, competitive sled hockey season! After what seems like forever, we are looking forward to hosting our long-awaited Sled Face-Off Tournament beginning Saturday, October 16 and 17 on our home ice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township. We are excited for the arrival of our friends who are traveling to meet us on the ice.
Our Sled Face-Off Tournament has been a popular tournament for youth sled hockey players in prior years. This year, we are pleased to announce the addition of adult competition. The Cincinnati Icebreakers adult team will face-off against our Mighty Penguins Adult Gold. Additionally, we have several youth sled hockey teams competing in our Junior A and Junior B Divisions. Join us for a fun weekend of sled hockey!
Best of luck to all of the sled hockey teams! We are happy to welcome you back to Pittsburgh!
The Mighty Penguins Adult Black team kicked off our first competition in nearly two seasons! The team traveled to Columbus, Ohio on September 16 and 17 for competitive adult league games. Adult Black had a great time together and enjoyed socializing with sled hockey friends again. The competition was intense and exciting. It’s great to enjoy travel and competition again. Let’s go Pen’s!!!
Each Junior Team’s Coach nominates one player for the Jennifer Kryger Spirit Award at the Grand Rapids Tournament. Sled hockey players who display similar character qualities on and off the ice as Jennifer, a previous Sled Wing’s player, did in her short life.
Jennifer was encouraging to her teammates and befriended others. She had a positive outlook on life, and a contagious laughter that brought smiles to many. Jennifer put a lot of heart in her game and as a sled hockey player, never gave up.
Our coaches nominated our newest player, Brynn, attending her first tournament. She was diagnosed in May with Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis a progressive degenerative spinal cord disorder. This year’s winner is Brynn!!
Nomination from Coaches:
Brynn is new to the Mighty Penguins, she has instantly became a part of our team with her determination, eagerness to learn the sport, and genuine happiness. Prior to playing sled hockey, Brynn was an avid softball player, playing on a travel team. Bryn has Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis a progressive degenerative spinal cord disorder, which she was officially diagnosed with this past May. Her symptoms quickly came to a point that she could no longer play Travel Softball or run and play with her friends without falling. Brynn loved being part of a team and the competition of sports, she didn’t know how she would fill that part of her life and then she was introduced to sled hockey by her doctor. The moment he showed her the video of sled hockey, Brynn knew she found her new sport. Since Brynn first got into a sled, she has been committed to the sport, creating new friendships with her teammates and honing her skills. She has joined us in every practice, our strength training program, and 2 sled hockey day camps all in less than 2 months of playing sled hockey. She is looking forward to her first tournament in Grand Rapids.
Brynn always has a smile on her face, approaches everything positively and brings joy to those around her. Brynn’s mom says that even though Brynn’s life has changed a lot in a very short period of time, she has always stayed positive. Brynn’s always had a bright smile and her mom was afraid she would lose it through all of this but she hasn’t.
Brynn is very deserving of this reward, she processes many of the same characteristics of Jennifer Kryger and brings positivity to those around her.
Congratulations on the well deserved award celebrating your amazing spirit!
Our Junior & Novice teams hosted 4 pediatric therapy centers to play for the Lauren’s Legacy Cup! The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh repeated as Champions! Thanks to Positive Steps Therapy, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and WHS Children’s Therapy Center for experiencing the game of sled hockey.
The CUP was named in honor of a physical therapist that volunteered with the Mighty Penguins through LEND Pittsburgh. Lauren passed away January 2018 from Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She had an amazing spirit and is dearly missed by her husband, parents, family, friends, co-workers and patients. Lauren will always be a special part of the Mighty Penguins. https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/laurens-legacy-gift/mightypenguins
We look forward to the Pediatric Therapy centers sharing with their patients all about the Mighty Pens. Therapists are our best recruiters! We thank them for all they do for our players!