“Size and strength are obviously a disadvantage because of my age, so I have to play smart. But advantages may be that I’m faster and react quicker than some of the older players who have been doing this for a while.”
When the USA’s ice sledge hockey team won gold at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Declan Farmer was only 12 years old and had just returned home from his first competitive tournament in the sport.
Four years later, the double-leg amputee finds himself packing his hockey bags, ready to fly out to the Sochi 2014 Paralympics as a forward on Team USA’s first line.
Immediately after Vancouver 2010, Farmer started taking the game more seriously, participating in development camps and club tournaments before making the US national team in 2013.
“It’s an honour to represent your country on the international stage, so it’s even cooler to do it at this age,” Farmer said.
“The rest of the team was very kind and helpful at first. I try to play with confidence. Size and strength are obviously a disadvantage because of my age, so I have to play smart. But advantages may be that I’m faster and react quicker than some of the older players who have been doing this for a while.”
Farmer, now 16, will play with another teenager, Brody Roybal, 15, on the USA’s first line at Sochi 2014. The duo will be joined by seasoned forward Josh Pauls, who was the squad’s leading scorer the past two seasons.
Roybal has only played eight games with the national team, having just made his international debut at December’s World Sledge Hockey Challenge, where the USA took silver.
Despite just being with the team a few months, he is already accustomed to waking up before dawn each morning to begin skating at 6:00 – sometimes his first of three workouts for the day.
“They’re such a fast line so it was really easy to join them,” Roybal said. “And Josh, well, he’s good at everything.”
Farmer, who ranked second on the team in points the last two seasons, concurred completely.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Farmer said of Pauls. “He’s better than us at pretty much everything. He’s on the IPC’s Ones to Watch list for a reason. He’s one of the fastest players in the world, plays really smart and just an all-around balanced player.”
Of the two high school students, Roybal said he is the faster, more aggressive one, while Farmer has become known for his hockey smarts, always knowing where and when to position himself on the ice.
Together, they balance each other out, and with Pauls, they have the potential to rival Canada’s veteran first line of Brad Bowden, Billy Bridges and Greg Westlake.
If the American trio is on their game in Sochi, it will make goaltender Steve Cash’s job that much easier.
“I feel like both of those guys will surprise a lot of people,” Cash said. “Declan, to me, was a big surprise not only this season, but last season when he came in and automatically became a part of the team. He was a real eye-opener. The way that kid can play just makes it fun for everyone to watch.
“At the same time you see Brody, who’s only 15, ready to surprise some people.
“When people get to see him on the ice and how fast he is, I think it will really impress them.”