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New Team Canada sledge hockey player is world champ a year from Paralympics
Updated On: May 8, 2017
Tyrone Henry. File photo

By Martin Boyce

With 20 seconds left on the clock, the Canadian sledge hockey team realized the world championship gold was inevitably theirs and the bench erupted. For Stittsville native Tyrone Henry, the moment was was six, dedicated years in the making.

Canada’s 4-1 victory over the United States on Apr. 20 in South Korea marked yet another milestone in the 23-year-old’s life that might have, otherwise, been unforeseeable.

Almost seven years ago, his sister was driving him and his brothers on the gravel road leading to their home when it flipped.

“I knew right away afterwards that I couldn’t feel my legs and something was wrong,” recounts Henry, who was paralyzed from the waist down.

While still in the ICU, he’d immediately set his sights on a new goal. Earlier that year, during the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics, Henry was watching sledge hockey, now known as para ice hockey. He was intrigued and wanted to try it, he recalls, and that desire was brought to the forefront with his injuries.

“A few hours after the crash, I already made up my mind,” Henry indicates, “I was going to play for the national sledge hockey team.”

After a full year barred from sports, Henry began playing house league sledge hockey, though there was an adjustment period. As a defenceman, switching to sledge hockey meant he could no longer skate backwards, which used to be one of the best parts of his game, he notes.

Henry credits family, friends and his love of hockey for helping him stay positive at times while he was adjusting to being paraplegic.

“If I ever had a bad day, then I’d just get on the ice and I’d feel free again,” highlights the South Carleton High School grad. “It’d be weight off my shoulders and I’d be positive again.”

Henry was invited to play for Canada’s national sledge development team in 2014 and then made the national squad a year later.

“It’s a great feeling,” says the teammate of fellow Ottawa native Ben Delaney, a Sochi 2014 Paralympian. “I feel immense pride playing for Team Canada and representing our country.”

At no moment more so than the World Championships final. USA had got the best the Canadians in recent years, including the Sochi Games (where Canada took bronze following a semi-final defeat to the Americans), and finals of the 2015 World Championships and Hockey Canada’s 2016 and 2017 World Sledge Hockey Challenge events.

Even in the round robin, the Americans got the best of them in the 2-1 contest, making the gold medal even more fulfilling, Henry signals.

“It was really satisfying being able to finally get over that hurdle, and doing something that we knew going into the World Championships we could do,” he explains. “It was a surreal feeling. We just thought back to all the hard work everybody’s been doing over the course of the season. It felt amazing.”

After the game, his phone blew up with messages from friends and family congratulating him on the team’s accomplishment, including his father, who became the volunteer president of Sledge Hockey Eastern Ontario.

“Tyrone has been unwavering in this commitment to himself,” states Andrew Henry. “To achieve this in six and a half years, including a full first year of no sporting, is truly remarkable.”  

With a world title to his name and a likely Paralympic debut in 2018 on the horizon, Henry looks back on the day of his car crash as a defining moment in his life.

“Being a part of the team right now and winning a gold medal at the World Championships kind of all goes back to that one day and what happened,” he underlines. “I’m just overjoyed and proud to be a part of the team.”

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