"It was exhilarating. It was just amazing. It brought back a lot of memories of when I was five years old and laced up the skates"
Instead of a pair of skates, Ryan Straschnitzki laced up in a sledge, grabbed a pair of hockey sticks – rather than one – and was back on the ice for the first time since a horrific bus crash in April involving his Canadian junior team, the Humboldt Broncos.
The 19-year-old was all smiles skating around the rink during the “Cowboys N Sleds Charity Sledge Hockey” fundraiser game on Saturday (15 September) in Calgary.
"It was exhilarating ... it was just amazing," Straschnitzki said on The Canadian Press.
"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."
Straschnitzki was paralysed from the chest down after a semi-trailer truck collided with his team’s coach bus en route to a game. Sixteen people – 10 of Straschnitzki’s teammates – were killed and 13 others injured.
After three months of rehabilitation, Straschnitzki also had practices on the ice to train for the game.
Canadian country music star George Canyon and three-time women’s ice hockey Olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascall laced up with Straschnitzki against members from the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, an organisation that promotes the western sport of chuckwagon racing.
Straschnitzki scored two goals and had an assist in his team’s 5-4 win, although one he called a “fluke goal, but it’s something I’ve got to work on.”
“I was having fun out there,” he said.
Former Canadian Para ice hockey national team member Kevin Rempel said on Twitter:
“Fantastic day on the ice yesterday seeing Ryan take to the ice in a sled. Thank you to everyone who came out and supported @strazsr and @STARSambulance!”
Last week, the Humboldt Broncos played their first game since the accident when they faced the Nipawin Hawks for the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season.