Two local hockey players will be facing some tough competition this weekend as they face off against former NHLers at the Kitchener Auditorium. And to make things even more challenging, they and the rest of their teammates will be playing without the use of a limb.
Kory Lorentz of St. Clements and Vaughan MacDonald of Elmira were chosen to skate for their country at the ISHIF World Amputee Hockey Championships, which are held between Apr. 25 and May 2 in Montreal – this weekend’s game is simply a warmup for them. They are also among 19 returning players on the 25-man roster, which is comprised of leg and arm amputees. In this year’s “Drive for Five,” Team Canada will face national teams from United States, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic and Latvia.
Lorentz was on the ice all throughout his life, playing minor hockey in Elmira and then spent some time playing for the Wellesley Applejacks, before he lost his right hand in a farming accident in June 2000.
“It sure does change the way you play hockey,” he explained. “Instead of holding the stick with two hands, now I have to play with one hand but at the same time you still have to be able to twist and curl and maneuver the blade around while squeezing hard which was the challenge at the beginning.”
However, nearly 10 years since the accident, he’s become quite used to playing with just one hand.
“To be honest, when I am playing now, it just comes naturally.”
MacDonald had been a hockey player for 15 years before a motorcycle crash left him without the use of his left arm when he was 18. Lorentz noted how simply going to the practices and watching the other players, MacDonald included, was inspiring to him.
“With some of the guys who have had one of their legs amputated, you can’t even tell when they are on the ice,” he remarked. “People would be inspired and amazed at the way some of these athletes perform.”
To date, the team has travelled to Finland (2003), Prague (2004), Latvia (2006) and Boston (2008), remaining undefeated. The hope is to repeat again this year. Both men, who play defence, helped lead Team Canada to its fourth gold medal at the 2008 championships in Boston. Lorentz scored twice and added two assists, while MacDonald recorded a pair of helpers of his own.
The World Amputee Hockey Championships are the highest level of competition for amputee hockey players. Members of the Canadian Amputee Hockey Committee (CAHC) are hopeful that one day it will become part of the Paralympics, but the sport’s governing body, the International Standing Ice Hockey Federation, was recently informed that an application to be a part of the program was rejected by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). That means it will not be a full medal sport in Sochi, Russia in 2014. Despite the rejection, the CAHA intends to continue developing the sport for amputees in Canada and abroad.
Currently, the players each need to raise money through fundraising to participate in the sport. The proceeds from this weekend’s game, for instance, will help fund the team’s trip. The event is free to attend, and Lorentz hopes that others will come out to be a part of the organization that has been so inspiring to him.
“It’s an amazing group of people,” said Lorentz. “Everyone feels like they have gotten a second chance, and is so proud not only to have survived an accident like they have but now to be able to play for our country – it’s amazing.”