Dy­lan’s hockey jour­ney

Bay Roberts teenager takes in blind hockey camp

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

It was in a hockey rink in Burn­aby, B.C., where Bay Roberts’ Dy­lan Brad­bury found him­self among his peers.

The teenager, who is legally blind, was skat­ing in­side the new For­tius Ath­lete Devel­op­ment Cen­tre Aug. 712 as a part of the Courage Canada Na­tional Youth Blind Hockey Camp.

Dy­lan joined more than a dozen vis­ually-im­paired play­ers in the camp to hone his skills. The camp fea­tured pro skaters Ryan Kesler, Eric Brewer and con­cluded with a show­down with Van­cou­ver’s Eclipse blind hockey team.

He was given the op­por­tu­nity af­ter Courage Canada came to St. John’s ear­lier this year.

“It was mind blow­ing,” said mother Amanda of the Burn­aby camp. “You had to see it to be­lieve it.”

For a week, Dy­lan was skat­ing, shoot­ing and scor­ing with oth­ers who were vis­ually im­paired just like he was.

Fi­nally, he was play­ing the game he loves with­out a dis­abil­ity. For once, Dy­lan was just like ev­ery other player on the ice.

He did not have 20/200 vi­sion. He was just an­other player and one of the best play­ers in the coun­try.

“It was ex­cit­ing,” the 15-year-old told The Com­pass.

It is not an ex­pe­ri­ence he does not get at his home rink in Bay Roberts. A mi­nor hockey player with the Bay Arena Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion, Dy­lan spends a lot of time mak­ing two or three strides up the ice be­fore having to turn around and do the same thing to­wards the other end.

That was un­til he went to Burn­aby. There, Dy­lan was just one of the guys. There, he han­dled the larger than life puck used in blind hockey.

Ev­ery time he rolled his wrists from one side of the other, he hears the rat­tle of the puck. It sounds like a rock locked in­side an old tin can.

This rat­tling helps him pass and shoot the puck like the play­ers back home. Streak­ing up and down the ice, the tail of his red and white jer­sey fly­ing in the wind, Dy­lan played the game like he always imag­ined play­ing it. “It was cool,” he noted. One thing was like home, how­ever. Amanda was in the stands cheer­ing him on, and his step­fa­ther Johnny Snel­grove was on the bench as his coach.

“I didn’t take it easy on him,” said Johnny with a smile.

“It was great see­ing him out there,” added Amanda, a slight crack in her voice. “(Dy­lan) was as good as ev­ery­one on the ice.”

New ex­pe­ri­ences

Started in 2008 by Mark DeMon­tis, Courage Canada has been work­ing to grow the game amongst the vis­ually im­paired.

At the camp, Brad­bury and his peers were treated to five daily on-ice prac­tices, along with in­tro­duc­tions to beep base­ball and five-a-side soc­cer. They were also given lessons in proper strength and con­di­tion­ing train­ing.

“They were treated like pro­fes­sion­als,” said Johnny.

The group also had a night out bowl­ing and took in a Cana­dian Foot­ball League game between the B.C. Lions and the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats.

“It was my first foot­ball game,” said Dy­lan.

Na­tion­als in the cards

From Feb. 13-15, Courage Canada is sched­uled to hold the third an­nual Na­tional Blind Hockey Tour­na­ment at Ry­er­son Univer­sity’s Mat­tamy Ath­letic Cen­tre at the Gar­dens in Toronto, Ont.

There is a pos­si­bil­ity for Dy­lan to take part in the tour­na­ment and the fam­ily is wait­ing to hear word of his in­clu­sion of the tour­na­ment be­ing played at the ven­er­a­ble Maple Leaf Gar­dens.

“It’s un­be­liev­able,” said Dy­lan.

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Bay Roberts’ Dy­lan Brad­bury holds up the large puck used in blind hockey. Brad­bury re­cently re­turned from the Courage Canada Na­tional Youth Blind Hockey Camp in Burn­aby, B.C., Aug. 7-12.

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