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For Paralympic players, a hockey game with sleds

February 23, 2014 at 12:41 PM EDT
The gear that a sled hockey player puts on for a game is pretty much the same as it is for an able-bodied player. With one key difference. Rather than ice skates, players ride on a sled with blades on the bottom. Jay Shefsky of WTTW in Chicago reports.

Watch the full version of this piece from WTTW Chicago.

JAY SHEFSKY: The gear that a sled hockey player puts on for a game is pretty much the same as it is for an able bodied player. With one key difference. Instead of ice skates, there is this sled with blades on the bottom.

JAY SHEFSKY: Sled hockey is played by people with lower limb disabilities like spinal cord injuries and amputations.

JAY SHEFSKY (to Patrick): How is this different from regular hockey?

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PATRICK BYRNE: Regular hockey uses their legs. We’re using our arms.

JAY SHEFSKY: One other difference: Each player has two hockey sticks.

JAY SHEFSKY: Patrick Byrne has been playing for about 15 years. And he’s not only a player — he’s one of the coaches.

PATRICK BYRNE: I lost my leg in ’92. I was in a construction accident. It just really changed my life.

JAY SHEFSKY: And at first, Patrick says he was suicidal.

PATRICK BYRNE: Before I lost my leg, I looked across the street and I seen a person in a wheelchair and I seen how she was struggling going around our equipment stuff and everything else, and I said to myself, “if I was ever in that situation, I think I would rather be dead.”

JAY SHEFSKY: Patrick says that before his accident, he was never much into sports. But he says that sled hockey – and other sports – have changed his life.

JAY SHEFSKY: Patrick Byrne played on the 2002 U.S. Sled hockey team at the Paralympics. The team was a long shot – But they came back with gold.

PATRICK BYRNE: Words can’t even describe it. The only thing you can do is (laughs) the tears start rolling it’s just like “did we just win the gold?”

PATRICK BYRNE: The great thing about sports that I love — and a lot of the guys here love — is it makes you feel like you’re not disabled.