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Hockey heroes celebrate Canadian first in Surrey, B.C.

SURREY —
Ryan Straschnitzki is used to handling a puck, but he’s now learning to do it from a different perspective: in a sled.

“It’s definitely a different sport,” Straschnitzki said at a celebrity sledge hockey game in North Surrey Saturday.

It’s been nearly two years since the deadly Humboldt Broncosbus crash, the hockey community’s worst-ever accident, in which Straschnitzki was paralyzed from the chest down.

In December, the 20-year-old had spinal surgery in Thailand in an attempt to stimulate his nerves and allow him to move his limbs.

He now has his sights on playing for Team Canada in sledge hockey.

“I carry some aspects over from stand-up, you know, I’m still learning the ropes only being a year in,” he said. “I just made the provincial team last October, so that’s a good start.”

Straschnitzki was in Surrey on Saturday for a celebrity sledge hockey game at the North Surrey Sports Complex. The new arena is now the first ice rink in the country to be awarded a gold standard for accessibility by the Rick Hansen Foundation. It’s fitted with features to help people with disabilities, including removable benches in the player and penalty boxes, as well as transparent boards so players can stay in their sleds and still watch the game.

“When all people regardless of physical ability can access the places where we live, work, learn and play, we create communities where everyone can contribute,” said Uli Egger with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

The game was also part of “Wickfest”, the World Female Hockey Festival founded in 2010 by six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser.

“It was awesome today we had the hacks like myself and the others, and then the real pros that really showed the skill,” Wickenheiser said.

The festival aims to get the next generation of female athletes into hockey, people like 11-year-old Kate Altwaseer, who said Wickenheiser, “inspired me to play hockey.”

And 10-year-old Sophie Passeri who told CTV News, “I want to be in the NHL.”

That’s something Wickenheiser wants to see.

“Someday, there’ll be professional women’s hockey for these girls to play in and that makes me very happy,” she said. 

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