Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki plays pond hockey with family near his home in Airdrie, Alta., on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki plays pond hockey with family near his home in Airdrie, Alta., on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

‘A blessing:’ Paralyzed Humboldt Bronco finds way back on the ice during COVID-19

Straschnitzki’s mother said it was heartwarming to see her entire family on the ice.

Ryan Straschnitzki says there is nothing like the feel of being back on the ice.

The former Humboldt Bronco junior hockey player, paralyzed from the chest down when a semi-trailer blew through a stop sign and into his team’s bus three years ago in rural Saskatchewan, has been spending time playing sledge hockey on a pond behind his family’s home in Airdrie, Alta.

The rippled outdoor ice isn’t what he’s used to, but he says it’s a welcome change after COVID-19 closed hockey rinks and limited the 21-year-old to workouts at home.

“It’s great. I mean any time you can get on the ice, especially during COVID, is just kind of a blessing,” Straschnitzki told The Canadian Press during a recent pond practice.

Since the bus crash, which killed 16 people and injured a dozen others, Straschnitzki’s focus has been on making the national sledge hockey team and winning a gold medal for Canada at the Paralympic Games

He made Alberta’s sledge hockey team last year and was preparing for the national championships.

“It got cancelled last year. It got cancelled this year. So it’s just another year of training and I’ve gotta work harder than ever to be more prepared and hopefully win another championship.”

It was tricky getting Straschnitzki to the pond. After placing him into his hockey sled, his family put him on a toboggan and slid him down a snowy hill and onto the ice.

His younger brother, Jett, who plays junior hockey in Fernie, B.C., made the four-hour drive home to join him in a skate for the first time in a few years.

“I thought I might as well make the drive and see him on the ice,” he said.

Straschnitzki’s mother said it was heartwarming to see her entire family on the ice. Her oldest son remains positive, but the past year has been hard on him, she said.

“He doesn’t talk to us too much about it, but I’m sure inside it’s been a struggle. It took him a long time to come out on the pond with the family and neighbours,” said Michelle Straschnitzki.

“It’s not the same for him and he misses his teammates. He works out constantly. He is absolutely a Hercules when it comes to that. He just carries on.”

Tom Straschnitzki said it was good to see a smile on his son’s face.

“I’ll probably be leaving him and his brother out there. That’s the way they’ve always done it.”

Ryan Straschnitzki said his Paralympic dream in still in focus.

“It’s never going away. And I’m gonna just keep training and then see where it takes me.”

READ MORE: ‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

#humboldtstrongCoronavirusHumboldtHumboldt Broncos

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School in Hazelton is being shut down for a week by the Gitanmaax Band Council following a confirmation of a COVID-19 exposure there on Feb. 26. (Black Press Media File Photo)
COVID-19 exposure notice shuts down Hazelton school

Closure to last for one week and school is to be sanitized

Dave Livesey, right, has been elected as Telkwa councillor defeating Klaus Kraft (middle) and Erik Jacobsen. (Interior News composite photo)
Dave Livesey elected to Telkwa council

Livesey received 60 votes to Klaus Kraft’s 51 and Erik Jacobsen’s 34 in preliminary results

Smithers Local Health Area reported just one new case of COVID-19 from Feb. 14-20. (BC CDC graphic)
Local weekly COVID infections drop to one

The Smithers Local Health Area (Houston to Witset) reported a single case between Feb. 14 and20

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read