With one year to go until the puck drops at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics, here are 10 Para ice hockey players to keep your eyes on.
Liam Hickey (Canada)
The dual-sport athlete is expected to represent Canada in wheelchair basketball at the Tokyo Games this summer before switching gears to compete on the ice in Beijing next winter. While in 2019 his basketball buzzer-beater shot lit up the CBC Sports highlight reel in Canada, he was also named the Best Defenceman at that year’s World Championships in Para ice hockey.
Tyler McGregor (Canada)
The humble team captain is hoping to lead Canada to its first Paralympic title since 2006 and grab his first gold. His standout career performance thus far came at the 2017 World Championships, where he had a tournament-leading 12 goals, including two in 17 seconds in the gold-medal game against the USA to help seal Canada’s fourth world title. Last month, he made headlines for raising more than $25,000 for cancer research while skating 25km.
Yutao Cui (China)
The host nation will be making its Paralympic debut in Para ice hockey, and its team captain will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to make a run for the podium. He started as a Para cyclist in 2010 and switched to Para ice hockey in 2016 when a coach in Qingdao recognized his talent and was starting a program in the lead-up to the Beijing Games.
Michal Geier (Czech Republic)
As the MVP of the 2019 World Championships and father of twins, Leontyna and Maximilian, expectations have never been higher for Geier. In front of his home crowd in Ostrava in 2019, he notched seven goals, four assists and had a plus-minus rating of +12, quickly becoming a fan favorite.
Michal Vapenka (Czech Republic)
He will be entering his 18th season as a goaltender on the Czech national team next year and it could very well be his final Games. Vapenka has represented his country at every Winter Paralympics since 2010 and competed in sitting volleyball at the 1996 Paralympics. Sports are in his blood, as both of his parents competed in volleyball at the 1972 Olympics.
Sandro Kalegaris (Italy)
The Austrian-born forward has become a stalwart scorer for Italy, who he has been competing with since 2015. The physical nature and speed of the sport has attracted him to the ice since day one, and he’ll be surrounded by a strong cast of young talent in Beijing, including Nils Larch, Christoph Deapoli, Alex Enderle and Alessandro Andreoni. Off the ice, he sells hunting and fishing equipment, his second hobby.
Audun Bakke (Norway)
The veteran defender led his team in scoring at the last World Championships and is hoping to push Norway to the Paralympic podium for the first time since 2010. The soft-spoken player has the speed, agility and concentration to have a breakout game at any point.
Seung-Hwan Jung (South Korea)
Known as Messi on ice, one of the world’s fastest skaters will look to return to form after taking some time off in the last Paralympic cycle to become a father and also try out cross-country skiing. He became a nationally recognized name at his home Paralympics in PyeongChang, where he helped South Korea to its first-ever Paralympic medal in the sport.
Declan Farmer (USA)
Entering his third Paralympics, Farmer has become the definition of clutch. In the PyeongChang gold-medal game, he scored the go-ahead goal with 37 seconds left in regulation and the game-winner in overtime. He also scored the golden goal in the 2015 World Championships and a crucial game-tying goal in the final of the 2019 World Championships. He has already etched himself into numerous record books, and what’s scary is he is just now entering his prime.
Jack Wallace (USA)
At his first Paralympics in 2018, Wallace was just 19 years old. Three years later, he’s one of the best playmakers — and Tik Tokers — in the sport. He notched an impressive five goals in the semifinals of the 2019 World Championships and, despite battling injuries on and off recently, he is also training at the elite level in Para canoe.