The ultimate team sport
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Waking up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning with a positive attitude may not be what most teenagers look forward to, but this is exactly what Paul Stoiber does almost every Saturday morning. Paul and Larry Stoiber are sophomores and twin brothers at Creek. Paul was born with cerebral palsy, making it hard for him to do what most kids take for granted, including walking. That doesn’t stop him from playing the sport he and his family love so much: hockey. Paul starts his day off by getting himself dressed and into his wheelchair at 6:00AM in the morning. When he arrives at the ice rink, Paul heads straight into the locker room to put on his equipment. The hockey that Paul plays is a little different than the hockey most watch on TV; he plays sled hockey, where athletes sit in a sled with skates attached to the bottom. Players use two shorter versions of hockey sticks with picks at the ends so players can use them to push off the ice and control the puck. Paul plays for the Avalanche prep team, part of the Colorado Sled Hockey Club. Paul and his team’s skills make it look easy, but it’s much harder than it looks. It’s humbling to watch kids forget about their disabilities and fly down the ice with their friends.
“It can be frustrating at times” said Paul. “Sometimes I ask myself ‘why am I here?’, but I realize that I’m with my team and this is what we love doing; we’re here to win, we’re here to compete, let’s just do it. We all have a sense of understanding. Sure we all have disabilities, but were here to compete and win just like any other team.” The many challenging hours of practice make the team almost flawless on the ice.
“We do a lot of skating drills, weaving through cones, passing to each other. If you want to be successful, you have to put in the work,” said Paul Stoiber.
Paul gave advice to kids who would be hesitant to start playing sled hockey: “Jump all in, you’re not going to get hurt, just go and you’ll pick it up. It’s one of the greatest sports in the world.”
Corey Fairbanks, the President of the Colorado Avalanche Sled Hockey team, expressed his interest and love in sled hockey. “I enjoy being able to get out of my wheelchair to play a sport, most other sports involve going from one wheel chair to the next. I also like the physicality of the sport. The fact that you can go out and muscle around with some guys; it’s a great stress reliever. Hockey is the best anger management therapy a person can have, because they can go out there and beat the hell out of somebody, while having fun with your team. Hockey is one of few sports that it takes all five players on the ice to be successful, it’s the ultimate team sport.”