Straschnitzki ‘ex­cited’ to get on ice with fel­low Bron­cos sur­vivor

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - SAMMY HUDES [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/ Sam­myHudes

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.

DAR­REN MAKOWICHUK

Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash sur­vivor Ryan Straschnitzki is set to play a sledge hockey game in Den­ver on Fri­day.

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