Former Bronco gets a ‘dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive’

Straschnitzki pre­pares for com­pe­ti­tion again in a celebrity sledge hockey game

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - BILL GRAVELAND

It might be a fun, trash-talk­ing, celebrity sledge hockey game but to Ryan Straschnitzki, it’s no jok­ing mat­ter.

In the Cow­boys N Sleds Char­ity Sledge Hockey game Satur­day, the former Hum­boldt Bronco and a team of all-stars, in­clud­ing coun­try singer Ge­orge Canyon, will take on driv­ers and out­rid­ers from the World Pro­fes­sional Chuck­wagon Association and Ryan’s father, Tom.

For Straschnitzki, who was par­a­lyzed from the chest down in the April 6 bus crash that claimed 16 lives, it’s his first time in a game since the ac­ci­dent.

“It’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent for sure. I’m go­ing to have to get used to things. I know I’m go­ing to fall. I know I’m go­ing to make mis­takes, but it’s learn­ing from that,” he said fol­low­ing a phys­io­ther­apy ses­sion this week.

Sledge hockey is one of the more pop­u­lar sports at the Par­a­lympic Win­ter Games and be­came an of­fi­cial event in 1994.

Instead of skates, play­ers use dou­ble-blade sledges that al­low the puck to pass be­neath. Play­ers use two sticks, which have a spiked end for push­ing and a blade for shoot­ing.

Straschnitzki has been work­ing with former na­tional sledge team mem­ber Chris Ced­er­strand to learn the sport and hopes to rep­re­sent Canada at the Olympics.

“I think Chris is go­ing to set me up for a few goals so hope­fully that can hap­pen, but I’ve never been much of a goal scorer, so maybe I’ll just set peo­ple up,” he said with a laugh.

“It’s be­ing on the ice again, but with a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.”

Ced­er­strand, who played in the Western Hockey League for the Red Deer Rebels and Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos, had his right leg am­pu­tated above the knee fol­low­ing a work­place ac­ci­dent. He said Straschnitzki’s progress has been amaz­ing.

“There’s al­most no words for me to de­scribe how well he’s do­ing out there and I know it’s a frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for him still,” said Ced­er­strand. “He’s so soon out of this ac­ci­dent. I’ve never seen any­body with what he has, progress as fast as he has.”

He said get­ting back on ice is good for re­cov­ery.

“Hockey’s hockey. We’re play­ing hockey and we’re sit­ting and it’s dif­fer­ent, but in the end, it’s still the same game,” Ced­er­strand said.

“For Ryan to con­tinue on with us and to ul­ti­mately give him the goal of rep­re­sent­ing our coun­try is go­ing to be huge in his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process.”

The teams ap­pear mis­matched. Straschnitzki’s team in­cludes Ced­er­strand, some former hockey play­ers in­clud­ing Cassie Camp­bell, and Olympic ath­letes. But most taking part will only get about 20 min­utes of prac­tice on the sleds be­fore the game.

“It’s a sport that a lot of peo­ple look at and think I can do that. Then you ac­tu­ally sit in one of these sleds you find out that you can’t,” Ced­er­strand said.

“Two 30-minute pe­ri­ods ... it will be a fa­tigu­ing day for these guys.”

Funds raised from the event will go to sup­port the StrazStrong Foun­da­tion in sup­port of Straschnitzki and STARS Air Am­bu­lance.

Tom Straschnitzki has been hav­ing fun pro­mot­ing the event.

“I’ve been yap­ping pretty good,” he said. “We’ll see Satur­day if I can back it up.”

He won­ders how his son will feel re­turn­ing to com­pe­ti­tion.

“It could be good. He could have flash­backs but I think with all of us in the sledge who haven’t been in the sledge it evens up the play­ing field,” he said.

“He hasn’t said any­thing about it. He never talks pre-game. He never has. I think he’ll do fine with it. “

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES

Par­a­lyzed former Hum­boldt Bronco Ryan Straschnitzki has been prac­tis­ing for Satur­day’s celebrity sledge hockey game. “It’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent for sure. I’m go­ing to have to get used to things.”

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