An Edmonton boy with a hand disability is indistinguishable from his teammates on the ice thanks to a new prosthetic.
Connor Young, 8, was born with symbrachydactyly, a condition where his hand is undeveloped. He has a double thumb and a pinkie but is missing an index finger, middle finger and his ring finger.
Despite that, Connor has a passion for hockey and started playing the game about two years ago.
“I very much liked it because of my coaches and my teammates,” he said.
His mother, Jennifer, said Connor’s disability does not constrain him.
“He just has to go about things a different way. It might take him longer to do something than someone else but generally I would say his hand difference does not limit him,” she said.
Connor said his condition sometimes makes it difficult to play hockey, but he recently received a prosthetic device from War Amps’ Child Amputee Program that gives him the movement needed for the sport. It is a cover that goes over his hand and allows him to strap in a hockey stick. Magnets on the hockey stick and on the device keep it attached to him while he plays.
“I feel really good and really comfortable. I give it a shot and I got my head in the game,” he said.
The device, which was developed partially by Connor’s father, is in its second phase. He said it makes him feel a bit more complete.
Jennifer said it can sometimes be emotional to watch Connor in his element, playing hockey and doing what he enjoys. She and her four-year-old son sat in the stands at George Hughes South Side Arena on Sunday to watch him face off in a hockey game.
“He just wants to be like everybody else. This device helps him do that. He can play with his brothers. He can play with his friends,” she said.
“We try not to make a big deal about it. Of course when your child is different there’s going to be kids out there that aren’t so nice. Connor has such a good nature. He’s such a kind and loving boy. We just know it is what it is. We wouldn’t change anything. It’s part of Connor. We just don’t let it hold him back.”
Jennifer said the War Amps program will pay for a new recreational prosthetic for Connor every year. The device has various attachments that allow him to play different sports, such as golf.
Connor started playing with the Ice Ninjas hockey team in September, and head coach Pat Callaghan said he didn’t know about Connor’s disability until the second practice.
“Connor fit right in like he was another one of the kids,” he said. “He’s just as good at all the other skills as the kids are.”
As for what Connor’s ultimate goal is? He said it’s very simple – to play in the NHL.
“Like Connor McDavid. That’s my number one favourite player. Of course, because my name is Connor.”