“It’s unbelievable to have the rare opportunity to play for Canada, and after hearing I’d get to be a part of that, it was just a feeling of pure joy.”
If you watch Canada play sledge hockey, you will almost certainly notice Tyler McGregor.
The 22-year-old from London, Ontario, started playing sledge hockey in 2011 and has quickly proven himself as a vital part of the team.
As a youngster, like most in Canada, McGregor dreamt of playing hockey for his country, proudly wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest. But when he was diagnosed with Spindle Cell Sarcoma in 2010, and had to have his leg amputated, he believed his dream to be over.
“In all honesty, after my surgery it seemed like the chances of representing Team Canada were slim to none,” he said. “But at the same time, no part of me was willing to accept that it was going to be the end of my career – and I’m thrilled that it was really just the beginning.”
That refusal to accept defeat led McGregor first to try standing amputee hockey, and then onto sledge hockey, where it quickly became apparent that he was a natural.
He credits some of his skills on the ice to the training he had as a youngster, explaining that while the physicality of sledge hockey was very different to standing hockey, all of the intangible skills remained the same.
Despite this, he knew instinctively that when he made the Team Canada roster, he still had some work to do.
“I adjusted to playing a more responsible role in all three zones after coming in as more of an offensive minded player,” he says. “As a result, I think sledge has really helped me become a much more complete player.”
In 2012, he made his international debut at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Calgary, where his goal and two assists helped lead Canada to a silver medal.
“Being selected to Team Canada was such an honour. It’s unbelievable to have the rare opportunity to play for Canada, and after hearing I’d get to be a part of that, it was just a feeling of pure joy.”
Following on from his debut, he helped his team win a gold medal at the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships in Goyang, South Korea, and has gone from strength to strength ever since. He is still just as passionate about the sport as he always was, and loves to share in the excitement of other new players on the team.
“We’ve had quite a few guys get to experience that same feeling over the past few years, after making Team Canada for the first time. So it’s been pretty unique to see and feel their excitement and be reminded of how fortunate we are to play the sport we love,” McGregor concluded.