With a new year and a new decade upon us, we surveyed a handful of Para ice hockey players about their 2019 accomplishments and their New Year’s resolutions and predictions for 2020.
Here’s what national team players Steve Cash (USA), Xavier Player (Australia), Frank Rennhack (Germany) and Lena Schroeder (Norway) had to say.
What was your biggest accomplishment as a Para ice hockey player in 2019?
Steve Cash: My biggest accomplishment as a Para ice hockey player in 2019 was winning World Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. As a team, we had our eyes set on reclaiming our title as World Champions since losing in 2017. I think we were able to forge some resiliency as a team that tournament and that's what makes it so special.
Xavier Player: Continuing to work hard in the gym and on the ice. Also, watching a lot of film from higher pools so I can help Australia develop as a program.
Frank Rennhack: Winning the club tournament "Lapp Cup" in Zlin, Czech Republic for the very first time. I played there with the club team from Malmö and we were a mixed team of Swedish, Norwegian and German guys who never played together before. So that was a great accomplishment, especially for me, because this tournament was my very first tournament 18 years ago and winning it for the first time in my career was very exciting.
Lena Schroeder: The World Championships was definitely a big accomplishment. It was only my second championship, so it was really great getting the chance to play in every game. I felt that I got more chances to prove myself on the ice.
What is your New Year’s resolution for 2020?
Cash: To find more ways to give back. Hockey has given me so much that there is no way I can ever repay that debt, but I feel making a positive impact on those in need is a good start. I would like to increase my footprint and some examples would be to help get a new player in the sport, lend a hand to a charitable cause, or simply brighten someone's day. I fully intend on making this more of a priority than it has been in the past.
Player: Gold at the C-Pool World Championships.
Rennhack: Winning the German championship with my hometown team from Dresden for the very first time in club history and to qualify for the playoffs with my Czech club team from Karlovy Vary. Off the ice, I want to spent as much time as possible with my wife and my little daughter.
Schroeder: Sport related I think it has to be to do well in the European Championships. It will be my first European Championships, and I really hope and think that the team can get a medal. Other than that, 2020 is my first year as a doctor. I’m hoping to kickstart my career, and hopefully get into a job that I love.
What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of the sport?
Cash: I am most excited about getting new teams in the sport. Having started 15 years ago, I've been fortunate enough to see some of the evolution unfold in the para ice hockey world. The talent level has exponentially risen and I think we are just scratching the surface as a new and improved version of the sport presents itself. With new countries entering the scene, I am only confident that they can open more eyes to the sport and in turn make more people fall in love with para ice hockey.
Player: The growth and potential inclusion of women's hockey as a Paralympic sport.
Rennhack: I am excited about the new countries which are starting the sport like Australia and China, which make our para ice hockey family bigger and stronger. I also like to see the sport get more and more professional.
Schroeder: It’s great that every team is getting better and better. The game is really close these days. So I’m excited to see each team develop. In addition to this, women’s para ice hockey is also developing. I’m hoping that the women’s part of the sport gets more attention.
What is your advice for someone who wants to try Para ice hockey for the first time in 2020?
Cash: There is always a spot for you! If there is one thing that hockey has taught me it would be that it's for everybody. Getting in a sled for the first time you soon find out that all abilities and disabilities are forgotten and a level-playing field is there waiting for you in the form of a fresh sheet of ice. Make that ice your canvas and be the athlete you always wanted to be. There is also no community like the hockey community, but I may be a little biased…
Player: Get out there and have fun. Before getting on the ice for the first time I thought that it was going to end in a disaster. But there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of.
Rennhack: To see the veteran players and how they are able to skate, pass and shoot can be a little bit hard for a beginner, because your main challenge is not to fall down on the ice and hold your balance. So just keep in mind that every player had those troubles at the beginning. But if you practice often, you will get better and better in a short period of time. And this sport is worth all the hard work and troubles, because it´s the coolest game in the Paralympic Movement.
Schroeder: Go for it. The sport is fun, and it’s awesome being part of a team. Everyone wants to develop the sport — regardless of gender — so don’t be afraid to approach a team and start playing.