David Guess takes pride in being the "make-it-happen guy" behind the Extreme Ice Center project that designed, built and donated 20 sleds for the 2010 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team.
His work on the project helped the team win the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Guess, 42, who loves to work with his hands, is in charge of maintenance for the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail.
Guess was approached last year by EIC General Manager Mike Mulhall and partner Tom Logano to take the lead on the sled project.
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The project started when Mulhall learned from a friend in Rochester, N.Y., that the U.S. team wanted to compete internationally but lacked adequate equipment - mainly the specially designed sleds. Mulhall also learned most of the sleds the team was using were in poor condition, and replacement parts were hard to find.
Mulhall met with Logano to discuss how they might help. Logano enlisted his son, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano, to help raise money for the project.
Joey Logano, a member of the Coca-Cola Racing Family of Drivers, came up with the idea to use the money he raises for charity through the "Chugs for Charity" program to help fund the project.
Guess, who lives in Charlotte, said he was glad to take the lead in designing and building the sleds. He began by traveling to New York, where he met the players and custom-fitted each one to a sled based on individual mobility and playing position.
Guess then returned to Charlotte to complete the project in his workshop.
Tom Logano said the project took nine months at a cost of $1,500 a sled; but the real investment was in research and development.
"We invested $10,000 just trying to determine how these sleds would be built and maintained," said Logano, "but when we got David involved in the project, we were definitely on the right track."
In the past, sled parts needed to be purchased overseas, making replacements hard to find. With Guess now making all the parts in his workshop, there is an adequate supply of spare parts.
Guess, who says he's been a fabricator all his life, said that after some initial research and talking to the players and coaches, he was able to look at the old sleds to determine what improvements needed to be made for better weight distribution and maneuverability.
"It was an awesome challenge, but it's still just nuts and bolts," Guess said.
Guess' involvement didn't stop after the team won gold: In January, he fitted six new team members with sleds and says he looks forward to helping the team to another winning season.
"Those guys are awesome," said Guess. "I'm there to help them with whatever they need."
Guess and Joey Logano also have teamed up for another project: Guess built the custom sled Joey Logano presented to 11-year-old Zack Bennett, a fan of the Charlotte Checkers Ice Hockey team.
Zack and his family were special guests at the Checkers game at the Time Warner Cable Arena on Jan. 14. The Checkers are trying to raise money to help the Bennett family move from Albany, N.Y., to Charlotte so Zack can receive specialized treatment for neurofibromatosis, a degenerative disorder that has led to 21 surgeries and the amputation of both Zack's legs.
Ice hockey means a lot to Zack, and now, thanks to the sled-maker Guess and the contributions from Joey Logano and Extreme Ice Center, he will get a chance to keep playing.