Wheelchair-Bound Youth Hockey Players Defy Disabilities
EULESS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Chicago Hornets are in the metro area to play for a championship. The youth hockey team, ages 6 through 13, suited up Friday at the Euless Starcenter Ice Arena.
“Play hard for the first game,” their coach told the kids as they pulled green and gold jerseys over their pads. “That sets a tone for the weekend.”
Their competition is from all over the US. 42 teams compete for a national title over the course of the weekend.
“What makes these teams different is that we’re at the USA Hockey Disabled Festival,” said JJ O’Conner, chairman of the USA Hockey Disabled Section. “So all the players that are participating in this weekends events have disabilities. Some of them have no legs. Some of them have no arms. Some of them have special needs.”
It’s called sled hockey. The players are seated and buckled into a sled-like device. If they have legs, they’re strapped out in front of them. They carry two short hockey sticks. At the end of the handle are small spikes so they can use the sticks for locomotion before flipping it over and hitting the puck.
If you’re surprised, you’re not alone.
“It’s just natural people are surprised,” O’Conner said. “They see someone in that situation, the first thing that doesn’t jump in their mind is ‘well, he’s a hockey player.’ In fact, these players are quite good at what they do.”
“I like scoring goals and hitting people,” said Brody Roybal, a 13-year-old born without legs who plays left wing and center. “I just love the game.”
“Once you see it, it’s like, ‘Holy mackerel! These kids can really play!”’ O’Conner said.
By just taking the ice, the players achieve the goal of removing the limits on what they can do.
“They have wheelchair basketball, wheelchair softball,” Roybal said. “I can skateboard. There are a ton of sports you can do when you’re handicapped.”
“Every one of us, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, has disabilities,” O’Conner said. “But it’s not your disability that make you who you are. It’s your abilities and what you do with them. And these players are perfect examples of using their abilities and focusing on their disabilities.”