Straschnitzki ‘excited’ to get on ice with fellow Broncos survivor
Ryan Straschnitzki grew up dreaming of playing college hockey at a big-time U.S. school.
This Friday, Straschnitzki will get his wish, as he and one of his former Humboldt Broncos teammates will be centre stage during the intermission of the University of Denver Pioneers men’s hockey game.
Straschnitzki, along with former Broncos goalie Jacob Wassermann, are set to face off in a sledge hockey game, joining disabled veterans and a few U.S. national players. The pair were among the 13 survivors of the April 6 bus crash that killed 16.
Like Straschnitzki, Wassermann was left paralyzed following the crash. Friday’s game will be the first time they’ve shared the ice since the collision.
“I’m excited,” said Straschnitzki. “It’s been a while since we’ve been on the ice together. Going through similar injuries, I think we’re there for each other and we understand what each person’s going through, so it’ll be an exciting time for sure.”
The initiative is organized by Dawg Nation, a foundation that helps adult hockey players and their families in times of crises due to catastrophic injury or illness.
The organization will also host Tyler Cameron, father of Broncos survivor Graysen Cameron of Olds, at the event in Colorado.
Straschnitzki has been practising sledge hockey since the summer as he strives to make Canada’s Paralympic team.
It’s a goal he set for himself in the first few hours after waking up from back surgery and finding out he was paralyzed from the chest down following the crash in April.
“It’s always improving each time you’re on the ice,” said the 19-yearold from Airdrie. “I had some minor adjustments set to my sled so that I’m able to be in the proper position and do more things with less restrictions, so everything’s been going good and I’m excelling at a good pace.”
He returned to the ice for game action in September, taking part in a charity sledge hockey game alongside country music stars, Paralympians, chuckwagon drivers and other special guests.
Straschnitzki also continues to strive in his rehab sessions, which he attends three to four times a week. He says he’s focusing on “basically everything” from balance to core work.
“I feel stronger, using my muscles more, getting the right nutrition that I need to heal. Things are looking a lot better,” Straschnitzki said.
“It’s all just to get stronger and be more independent, but at the same time it’s about hopefully getting that chance to walk again. But for now, I’m just trying to work on the small things and get stronger.”
Straschnitzki and Wassermann will also attend a game between the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars on Saturday, where they’ll drop the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff, and head out on the ice to practise with the Stars on Monday.
Dawg Nation founder Martin Richardson said he was honoured to help put together the weekend’s festivities for the boys after learning about Straschnitzki’s sledge hockey dreams a week after the crash.
“That’s how this all started,” he said. “It’s gonna be a pretty amazing weekend all in all.”
Earlier this month, Straschnitzki took in a game at the United Center in Chicago, along with his dad Tom and sledge hockey mentor Chris Cederstrand, where he had a chance to watch his favourite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, and meet its captain Jonathan Toews.
“It was a pretty awesome experience and then we got to drive to Madison, Wisconsin to watch the University of Wisconsin hockey. The fans were insane,” he said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was a dream of mine to play college hockey at some point so it was pretty crazy experiencing that.”
In September, Straschnitzki was presented an honorary Canadian Sport Award during a ceremony in Ottawa, where he also took in an Ottawa Senators game and made a stop at Parliament Hill to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Going through similar injuries, I think we’re there for each other and we understand what each person’s going through.
Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki is set to play a sledge hockey game in Denver on Friday.