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

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Saanich Fire Department. Black Press Media File Photo
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read