CALGARY, AB – As the leaves start to hint at the colors of autumn, the fervor of ice hockey is once again ready to take over the hearts of Canadians. One team, in particular, is bracing for a season that promises to be nothing short of spectacular: Canada’s National Para Hockey Team. Hockey Canada recently unveiled the names of the 30 talented players who are participating in the evaluation camp until September 9 at the iconic WinSport Event Centre in Calgary.
The diverse list boasts four goalkeepers, nine defensemen, and a whopping 17 forwards. Entrusted with the responsibility of selecting this elite roster were head coach Russ Herrington, associated with York University in Unionville, ON, and Marshall Starkman from Thornhill, ON, the manager of hockey operations. The duo wasn’t alone in the decision-making process. Assistant coaches Scott Walker from Cambridge, ON, and Mike Fountain hailing from Gravenhurst, ON, also lent their expertise.
The anticipation is palpable. As Coach Herrington expressed, “We are looking forward to kicking off a new season and bringing this hard-working group together at our evaluation camp in Calgary.” The camp is not just about training; it’s a platform to take stock, introspect, and build. Herrington added, “This camp will allow us the opportunity to continue to build off a strong performance at the World Para Hockey Championship last June as we look ahead to competition this season.”
The assembled roster isn’t short of accolades. Sixteen of the enlisted players have the distinction of winning a silver medal at the 2023 World Para Hockey Championship held in Moose Jaw, SK. Names like Armstrong, Boily, Cozzolino, Crane, and Dunn resonate with fans who have followed their incredible journey. Eight of these players also wore the silver medal at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, China.
Such past laurels bring not just pride but also a responsibility. A responsibility to mentor, guide, and inspire the younger lot who will share the rink with them. Marshall Starkman shed light on this blend of experience and fresh talent, stating, “We’re excited for the start of our evaluation camp and to begin year two of the quadrennial following an incredible first year.” He rightly pinpoints the critical role of veteran leadership, adding that they “will continue to push the level of play to our younger athletes in preparation to represent Canada in international competition this year.”
Post the camp, the team is set for international challenges. Their first stop will be Ostrava, Czechia, where they will be vying for gold at the 2023 International Para Hockey Cup, from October 2-8. However, the action won’t stop there. As winter starts to settle, the 2023 Para Hockey Cup will take center stage from December 3-9 in Quispamsis, NB. A tournament that promises intense matches, nail-biting finishes, and moments that will be etched in the memories of fans.
For fans, players, and officials alike, these tournaments are not just about the games. They symbolize hope, resilience, and the spirit of sportsmanship. They exemplify how challenges, no matter how big or small, can be overcome with grit, determination, and teamwork.
Hockey has always been more than just a sport in Canada; it’s a passion, a way of life. And when it comes to Para Hockey, the stakes get even higher. It’s not just about the goals scored or matches won; it’s about breaking barriers, challenging the status quo, and celebrating human spirit and perseverance.
As the National Para Hockey Team gets ready to dazzle fans with their skills, strategies, and sportsmanship, all of Canada will be watching, cheering, and hoping for another season of great memories. The journey from the evaluation camp in Calgary to international arenas promises to be filled with adrenaline, excitement, and the undying spirit of hockey. And as every slapshot is taken, and every goal is scored, the team will not just be playing for victory but for the pride and honor of an entire nation.