By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Ryan Straschnitzki was all smiles Saturday following his first return to the ice in a game since being paralyzed from the chest down in an April bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos in Saskatchewan.
Straschnitzki was at the Cowboys N Sleds Charity Sledge Hockey game Saturday, playing on a team with Canadian country music star George Canyon and a group of all-stars against the drivers and outriders from the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, including Ryan’s father Tom.
Straschnitzki’s team won 5-4 in which he scored two goals and had an assist.
“It was exhilarating….it was just amazing,” Straschnitzki said after the game.
“It brought back a lot of memories of when I was five years old and laced up the skates. It was one of the happiest times of my life and I was back out there again and just enjoying the moment.”
He joked before the game began that he had never been much of a scorer and missed a wide open chance before the first one went in.
“It was obviously a fluke goal, but it’s something I’ve got to work on but it was just fun. I was having fun out there.”
Sledge hockey, one of the more popular events at the Winter Paralympic Games, 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 spike-end for pushing and a blade-end for shooting.
Straschnitzki has been undergoing physiotherapy since the April 6 crash north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, which claimed 16 lives and injured 13 others. Immediately after the crash he expressed an interest to begin playing sledge hockey.
His mentor, former national sledge team member Chris Cederstrand, who played hockey in the WHL 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 hard work is paying off.
“He got two goals I believe. He’s doing incredible. His progress is something I can’t even put into words,” said Cederstrand.
Tom Straschnitzki was excited for his son despite the fact he lost a bet to him in the game and will have to wear makeup and a dress.
“I’m very proud that he did the whole game and now he can hit the net, I guess, because when he was standing up he always missed the net,” Straschnitzki said with a chuckle.
“There’s another positive.”
Cassie Campbell-Pascall, a three Olympian in women’s ice hockey, was on Straschnitzki’s team and understands the importance of his returning to the ice.
“It’s the crispness of the ice. There’s something about it that just makes you feel better and I think with his situation being on the ice is somewhat therapeutic, not just physically, but more importantly mentally,” she said.
Money raised from the event went to the Strazstrong Foundation in support of Ryan Straschnitzki and STARS Air Ambulance.
Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter