By Liam Hickey (as told to Katherine Dolan)
I remember every last second of our gold medal win.
It was at the IPC World Para Hockey Championships in Gangneung, South Korea and Team Canada was in the finals against our arch-rivals, the United States.
I was at the opposite end of the ice, and I remember turning back, watching the seconds count down to zero and seeing everyone coming off the bench and rushing our goalie. I skated down the ice, just at a loss for words, taking it all in.
No matter how many times I put on the Team Canada jersey and play for my country on the National Para Hockey Team, I am always honored, humbled and so proud to represent Canada.
For the last four years, I have been fortunate to play on the National Team and this December, we will be taking on the Czech Republic, Russia, and the U.S. at the 2019 Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup in Paradise N.L. Not only do I get to represent Canada again, which never gets old, but it will give us a chance to continue to showcase just how fast, exciting and incredibly entertaining it is to watch a game of para ice hockey or as it’s more commonly known, sledge hockey.
I was born missing a bone in my right leg and today wear a full prosthetic right leg. I am so grateful to my parents, because even at an early age, they constantly reminded me to never let anyone tell me what I could or could not do. I was born with my disability, so I did grow up without knowing any different, but the support of my family helped me to push the boundaries of even what I thought I was capable of.
I will continue to break down the barriers of what people think of when it comes to people with disabilities, especially when it comes to working with young kids and parents.
You see, no matter what the severity of the disability, people tend to put a limitation on it as soon as they see it. Classic stereotypes that I just want people to see beyond. Most hockey-loving kids growing up in Canada dream of winning the Stanley Cup. But if you’re a kid with a disability, their dreams are crushed too early because they will never be able to hoist Lord Stanley.
I’m here to tell them and anyone else willing to listen, that para-sport can get to just as high of a level as able-bodied sport. I want every kid out there to know and be aware of all the incredible para-sport options they have from Paralympics to Professional Wheelchair basketball leagues in Europe to countless other options.
If you are a young athlete I want you to know that there is so much you can get out of para-sport that is incredibly rewarding. It may not be the Stanley Cup, but it could be a Para Olympic gold medal. I mean, how many people in the world can say they are an Olympian or a Paralympian? Not many! I’m telling you, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
For parents, don’t put any limitations on your kids. Let them figure out what they can do for themselves and if anything push them a bit further than they might push themselves, at first. I know that because my parents did that for me and I am so grateful they did.
So if you are wondering if para-sport is right for you or your child, my best advice to you is to give it a try. It’s incredibly rewarding to have been given all these opportunities in my life, I hope every kid out there gets a chance to experience all that I have been able to, and to push the boundaries in sport and in life.
See you on the ice,