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Boy, 12, overcomes singular mobility and inspires friends to form sledge hockey team

  • December 31, 2017

Riley Oldford was once a customarily child in Yellowknife, N.W.T., who played hockey sitting down.

While his peers tied their skates forward of a game, a small, fair-haired 12-year-old would put aside a hiker he uses to get around and tag into a seated sled, one customarily used for sledge hockey.

Born with intelligent palsy, as good as a junction hankie commotion and ongoing lung disease, Oldford has singular mobility. So in 2011, his relatives bought him a sled to concede him to play hockey with his friends.

Ever since, Oldford has propelled himself around a ice regulating his arms and dual sticks, while his teammates skated, upright, alongside him.

But others became extraordinary about his singular approach of personification a game. After enlivening crony after crony to try out his sled, Oldford has now desirous a arrangement of Yellowknife’s initial sledge hockey team.

About a dozen players took partial in a team’s entrance contest diversion this month during a internal arena, famous as a Multiplex. That’s some-more than half of a 20 or so players who frequently stagger by the practices.

Parents help strap their kids into sleds and carry them out onto a ice, usually as Oldford’s relatives have always finished for him.

Now they all look like him on a ice, even nonetheless his teammates don’t have earthy disabilities.


More than 20 kids stagger by a weekly practices. (Sarah Bridge/CBC)

Liam Leonard, 11, was among a initial to buy his possess sled in sequence to play with Oldford.

He says a preference was about assisting his friend, though adds that Oldford has “done a unequivocally good pursuit of creation it fun” for a other players.

Leonard still plays “stand-up” hockey, though says this new competition allows him to “get out on a ice a bit some-more often,” and provides his arms with “a good workout.”

Unlike Leonard, many of a players don’t possess their sleds; a locus now stores a raise of them that have been paid for by fundraising efforts.

Great choice for non-skaters

Since skating ability isn’t compulsory in a diversion where players are seated, non-skaters have been drawn to a organisation as well.

Morgan Stabel, 10, says she finds a diversion “easier than stand-up hockey.”

With inclusivity during a heart of a team, even some relatives have assimilated in.

Oldford’s mom, Sharon, and her husband, Craig, any have their possess sleds, that they share with any adults peaceful to try.

Both grew adult skating, though given Riley took on sledge hockey, Sharon says, it’s “kind of taken over unchanging hockey.”

The Oldfords have lifted income to buy additional sleds so some-more players can give a competition a go. They’ve also negotiated ice time with a internal teenager hockey league, and they credit a village in assisting them grow a competition locally.


Riley was innate scarcely dual months beforehand and spent over 100 days in a neonatal complete caring unit. While doctors primarily doubted his chances of survival, currently he’s an active 12-year-old. (Sharon Oldford)

Their loyalty is about some-more than usually hockey. For a prolonged time, a integrate could customarily dream that their son would ever play a sport.

‘He defied a odds’

After a difficult pregnancy, Riley was innate scarcely dual months premature. Doctors told his relatives he wouldn’t live past his initial day, so a Oldfords immediately had him christened in hospital, scheming for a worst.

Riley finished adult spending some-more than 100 days in complete care, and many of those days on life support. Baby photos uncover him as a small tot amid a disaster of medical tubing and machinery, operative to keep him alive.

He was eventually released, though with no pledge he’d ever travel or talk.

“He defied a odds,” says Sharon.

Despite a early prognosis, Riley has small difficulty communicating now. Though he infrequently can run brief of breath, he has lots to say, generally about sledge hockey.


Riley is seen nearing during a Multiplex locus in Yellowknife with his mom, Sharon Oldford. (David Common/CBC)

Riley says he fell for a competition around 6 years ago when Paralympians from Team Canada hold an eventuality in Yellowknife to enthuse locals to try sleds.

“I was out for a whole time they were on a ice,” he says. “I consider it was dual hours.”

Ever since, he’s been bending on sledge hockey. He has met many of a Team Canada Paralympic players and has justification to infer it; his bedroom is plentiful with pucks and sticks sealed by his sports idols.

Number 68

Reminders of Riley’s prolonged tour are never distant away. Signed hockey jerseys hung adult around his bedroom underline a number 68, representing a days he spent on life support as a baby.

He says it was after that 68th day that his family knew he would live. Now, he says, “That’s usually my number.”


Riley was once a customarily child in Yellowknife who played hockey sitting down, though others became extraordinary about his singular approach of personification a game. (David Common/CBC)

Though Riley is during a centre of a new Yellowknife sledge team, he’s discerning to credit those he plays with for fasten in. “They’re unequivocally good friends,” he says. “They do a lot of things usually so we can [join in] with them.”

Riley hopes that pity a story of his sledge organisation competence enthuse kids in other tools of a nation to take on a game.

His team, that has nonetheless to settle on a name, has already gained a courtesy of some Team Canada Paralympians. Tyler McGregor, who represented Canada in sledge hockey during a 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, came to Yellowknife to manager a organisation after the team was formed.

The revisit was paid for by a grant, that will also concede other Paralympians to fly to Yellowknife and coach the players in January.

Until then, a organisation will play each week and is always looking for new players. All are acquire to join.

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