(PHOTO: Tyrone Henry is a member of the Canadian National Sledge Hockey Team that won gold in South Korea. Photo by Barry Gray.)
In 2010, a 13-year-old Tyrone Henry watched the Vancouver Paralympics sledge hockey games, mesmerized.
“The first time I saw sledge hockey – and I was an able bodied kid – I thought that I would love to play that. I didn’t know you could play it if you were able bodied,” said Henry.
Three years later, Henry was in a car accident that left him a paraplegic. From the time he was in the hospital recovering from the accident, Henry knew he would play sledge hockey for Team Canada.
Fast forward to today. At the end of April, Henry helped Team Canada win gold at the IPC World Para Hockey Championship in Gangneung, South Korea.
Henry says the experience was incredible.
“When we left Korea it was crazy. What happened – it hits you and you’re like “wow,” said Henry. “They didn’t even know what sledge hockey is but they come out and love it right away. We had a bunch of fans causing a lot of nice in the last game. They have been exposed to it and now they want to see more.”
Now 23 years old, Henry credits his sledge hockey success to his parents and other players who served as mentors.
“My dad has helped me out a lot since day one. Since I had my accident,” said Henry. “He pushed me to be involved, get more ice time, train more and use the help of the players who have be there before.”
And it wasn’t just his dad who offered support.
“My parents are crazy – they drove me to Toronto for so many tournaments. I think every parent in Canada knows about that,” said Henry. “I’m thankful for everything they’ve done for me. Its not lost on me how much they sacrifice for me.”
Henry also knows that much of his progress in the sport comes from players who mentored him.
“Marc Dorion [a member of the men’s national team], he got me faster and more agile,” said Henry. “That makes you a better player. And I could talk to him about different experiences.”
Another player that helped was Todd Nicholson, former captain of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team and current Team Canada Chef de Mission for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
“He’s a paraplegic like me,” said Henry. “It’s helpful to have experience as a paraplegic too. He helped with blade width, life advice. I changed my blades and got better.”
Now, Henry is looking forward to trying out for the Paralympic team and thinks his experiences at the Worlds will help.
“I have to make the team again in August. Hopefully I can translate this experience into making the team and winning gold,” said Henry. “It was nice to have the confidences of the coaches [in Korea.] They put me with Adam Dixon in a lot of key situations and have me a lot of chances.”
Henry played stand up ice hockey for seven years prior to playing sledge hockey.
“I was a pretty good backwards skater and you can’t go backwards in sledge hockey,” said Henry. “The angles are different. There are a lot more little details to position yourself. So much more fun to move, and lots of different things to work on – you just solve puzzles. It’s fun to play!”
One puzzle to be solved is the name for sledge hockey. It is being re-branded as Para Ice Hockey.
“They want the same type of name through all Paralympic sports,” says Henry. “Hopefully, people can still follow the sport, its still the same game on the ice and hopefully it will help worldwide.”
But Henry started playing locally, and that is what he remembers. Henry says support from the community makes a difference.
“The community – to feel that support from family and friends. Support from Shad Qadri and others, knowing the people in the city have our backs,” says Henry. “It’s all about the people who helped you get where you are. Hopefully I can bring back and other gold medal for this community as well.”
— Shad Qadri (@ShadQadri) April 23, 2017