Moving to bring their organization back to a grassroots level, the Canadian amputee hockey team, including players from St. Clements and Elmira, last week swept the floor with the Media NoStars, a group of local media professionals who issued a challenge to the team earlier this year.
The team holds six consecutive World Championships, but this year, due to a lack of funding, the championships in Boston were cancelled. It’s a small hit compared to what the Canadian Amputee Hockey Committee (CAHC) hopes to continue on the home front.
“We have to refocus away from the national program and back down to the grassroots program. The core 25 guys on the national team are pretty good hockey players … but this program is more about the healing aspect: guys who have had to learn another way because they’ve lost an arm or a leg to an accident or a disease. If the national program suffers a little bit, unfortunately that’s what just happens,” said Kevin Delaney, a committee member and player on the team.
While the program has been able to garner some skilled hockey players for the national program, the fear is that new amputees coming into the fold may leave if there is too much emphasis on competition rather than healing.
Delaney, 34, was born missing his right arm and joined the CAHC at age 21 in the program’s infancy. The CAHC was established in 2001 and their regional juniors and seniors program launched in 2010.
“I had dealt with growing up and not knowing too many amputees myself. As far as some of the kids being in the program, being able to see people just like you I think is tremendous. For myself, that would have been a tremendous help,” he said.
Among the players were Kory Lorentz of St. Clements and Vaughan MacDonald of Elmira. Lorentz played with Woolwich Minor Hockey and the Wellesley Applejacks before losing his right hand in a June 2000 farming accident.
MacDonald played hockey for 15 years before he lost the use of his left arm in a motorcycle crash at age 18. Both men played alongside team mates young and old as part of the organization’s goal to help amputees adapt to new challenges.
“Without the young players there is no real national team and that’s what we need to go back to, focus on Canada first,” he said this week.
Older players on the team have careers and families and some are attending university. It’s important for young amputees to see that, he added.
“It’s pretty important for [kids] to realize that they can go to university and have a successful job and family, for them to see that is pretty important … it gives them something to shoot for.”
Down the road, MacDonald would like to see a CAHC event come to Elmira.
The free event saw some adult and national team players share the ice with the younger kids to raise funds for the Canadian Amputee Hockey Committee’s hockey events (costs like ice time fees for the kids) across Canada.
Kids are the core of the program and the reason for its continuation, Delaney added.
“I know that they definitely look up to us and in my opinion we are doing this for the kids, this is a kids program.”