Ryan Straschnitzki poses for a photograph in Philadelphia in March 2019. (Photo: The Canadian Press/AP/Matt Rourke)

Humboldt Broncos’ Straschnitzki in Surrey to play sledge hockey with Wickenheiser

Friendly game on Feb. 1 part of the Wickfest female hockey event in North Surrey

Humboldt Broncos bus-crash survivor Ryan Straschnitzki and Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser will be in Surrey to play a celebrity sledge hockey game on Feb. 1.

The noon game that Saturday will also include NHL alumni, B.C. Lions football players, celebrities and “influencers,” at the new North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex.

The friendly game will be played as a showcase event during Wickfest, or The Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, to run from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2. This is the second year the tournament will be held in Surrey, following its debut here in 2019.

To register for free tickets to see the sledge hockey game, visit celebpara.eventbrite.ca.

Straschnitzki, who hails from Airdrie, Alta., was among 13 junior hockey players injured in 2018 when a truck driver blew through a stop sign and into the path of the Saskatchewan junior team’s bus. Sixteen others on the bus would die.

Now 20, Straschnitzki last year underwent spinal surgery in Thailand, where doctors implanted an epidural stimulator in his spine and one week later injected stem cells above and below the injury, in an effort to reverse some of the damage.

“It’s been progressively getting better and harder at the same time, which is good,” Straschnitzki told the Canadian Press in December. “They put me through a good sweat, doing a couple of laps around the buildings. It’s good work.”

• READ MORE: ‘Loss for words’: Injured Bronco shocked, excited over effect of spinal surgery.

(story continues below video)

Straschnitzki said he felt all sorts of emotions when he took his first steps since climbing aboard the Broncos hockey bus on April 6, 2018. “It gave me kind of a shock and brought back obviously a lot of memories … (including) all the sports activities I was involved in.”

Wickfest is founded by Wickenheiser, four-time Olympic gold medallist and 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. In 2018, she took on the role of assistant director of player development for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

During last year’s tournament in Surrey, Wickenheiser hit the ice with young female players for some fun and instruction.

• READ MORE, from January 2019: New Wickfest hockey event in Surrey welcomes 800 girls for more than just games.

North Surrey’s new three-sheet arena was designed and built with inclusivity and accessibility in mind. Features include level access to the ice from dry surfaces, and players boxes and penalty boxes made of clear lexan, instead of regular puck board, allowing para ice hockey players a clear view of the ice from their sledges. Also, removable benches in the players boxes allow para players to remain in their sledges when off the ice.

• READ MORE: New North Surrey arena focuses on accessibility, inclusivity.

Elsewhere, the city’s Para Ice Hockey for Beginners program runs seasonally at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex, for those aged six and up. Participants learn how to maneuver a sled, shoot the puck and play fun games with an instructor. Registration details are posted to an Adapted Sports page at surrey.ca.

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