Humboldt Broncos player returns to the ice for first-ever sledge hockey game

Click to play video: 'Former Humboldt Bronco makes victorious return to the ice' Former Humboldt Bronco makes victorious return to the ice
WATCH: Paralyzed from the chest down in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Ryan Straschnitzki declared he would one day play hockey again. The Cowboys 'n Sleds sledge hockey game in Calgary on Saturday gave the former Broncos defenseman the chance to make good on that vow. Deborah Matejicka reports – Sep 16, 2018

More than 1,000 people attended the WinSport Markin Macphail Centre on Saturday for Ryan Straschnitzki’s first-ever sledge hockey game at the Cowboy ‘n Sleds event.

The hockey player was left paralyzed from the chest down in the horrific Humboldt Broncos bus crash earlier this year and has returned to the ice after five months of rehab.

“It was exhilarating. I mean, all the people that came out to support and the environment and everyone that came out and played, it was just amazing,” Straschnitzki said.

“The music was going, the fans were loud, it was just like playing Humboldt again.”

READ MORE: Music, swimming part of therapy for paralyzed Humboldt Broncos hockey player

In addition to paralysis, the 19-year-old suffered a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a punctured lung and bleeding in his head and pelvis after the bus crash on April 6. Straschnitzki has since been in rehab, pursuing his dream of someday winning a gold medal for Canada.

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Saturday brought back memories for the Airdrie man.

“When I was five years old and laced up the skates, it was one of the happiest times of my life,” Straschnitzki said. “And I was back out there again enjoying the moment.”

That moment was complete with a sweet, sweet victory: Straz scored twice in his team’s 5-4 win.

He competed against his dad, Tom, who spoke of the skill it takes to play sledge hockey as well as his son’s dedication.

“[The support] is what drives Ryan,” he said. “He reads all the stuff too. He doesn’t think he’s the inspiration, he thinks everyone else is. He doesn’t want to give up either… That’s his drive: his community and the team.”

READ MORE: Hospitalized Humboldt Broncos get visit from Stanley Cup

For several high-calibre athletes competing in the event, hockey is still hockey — no matter how you play it.

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“There’s a sense when you’re a hockey player you get on the ice, you enjoy the smell of it, the crispness of the ice,” said Cassie Campbell-Pascall, an Olympic hockey player and Straz teammate. “There’s just something about it that just makes you feel better, and I think in his situation, being on the ice is somewhat therapeutic, not only physically but I think, more importantly, mentally.”

Ryan Straschnitzki played his first-ever sledge hockey game at the WinSport Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary on Sept. 15 for the Cowboys ‘n Sleds event. Global News

At the event, fans had the chance to meet the players, including country singer George Canyon and drivers from the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, and were treated to a concert after the game.

Funds raised support STARS Air Ambulance and the StrazStrong Foundation.


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