Going from an able-bodied goaltender in Red Deer’s Minor Hockey system to a sledge hockey player hasn’t slowed down Tanner Fandrey at all.
The 17-year-old student at Lindsay Thurber was diagnosed with an inflammatory disease of the spine when he was 13.
It essentially destroyed his hips to the point where if he was to play the sports he used to play, those hips could break apart.
But instead of taking all this sitting down Tanner decided he would take a stand and not view this as a limitation but instead a chance to learn something new.
“I do everything I did before just differently, honestly,” said Fandrey, who is involved in sit-skiing. “Everything I did before, my doctor said you will never do this again. I do it completely fine, just a different way.”
He said taking this direction has empowered him in such a way as he feels he’s put the disease on the back burner while he has moved forward with his life in the world of sports. A world he says he loves and that’s what pushes him to continue to learn and get better at what ever sport he plays.
Like the majority of Canadian kids he had the same dream of lacing up the skates for an NHL team but while that door has closed Fandrey said another has opened up.
“Eventually I’m hoping to be on the national sledge hockey team that is over in Russia right now. So I’m hoping to be there for the 2018 Olympics.”
He plays the game with the Edmonton Impact and has worked out with some Canadian National team members, impressing them enough to be a prospect for the Canadian development team, he said.
“In March I’m going down to Boston, Massachusetts to try out for a university team down there.”
While playing in a sledge hockey tournament in Boston, the University of New Hampshire, which has a sledge hockey program, offered him what basically amounts to a scholarship.
Fandrey said the game of sledge hockey isn’t much different from what we see at any rink in Canada on a weekend apart from some obvious differences and the intensity with which it is played is similar.
There are some able-bodied athletes who get into the sled to play the game as well and Fandrey said it’s great exercise for anyone.
“It definitely shows you some muscles that you’ve never used before.”
Just like minor hockey there is a cost to playing the game with helmets, gloves, padding and sticks which are the same material as the stand up hockey variety and those are ordered from the United States.
As for the sled each person uses, that might be the biggest expense a player would have to shell out for.
“The cheapest sled would run you about $800 bucks and some of them go up to $1,200 or $1,300 if you buy one of the new titanium ones they’re coming out with right now,” he said.
The Red Deer Games Foundation stepped in last year and gave Fandrey a grant to purchase one of the Team Canada sleds which is customized to his needs.
“So it’s built basically to my body,” he said. ” I give them a set of measurements and they build a brand new sled with all the bars, the bucket, everything for me.”
Fandrey says staying involved in sports helped him get past the ‘why me’ stage of his situation and opened new doors for him, including public speaking which he says allows him to share his story with others.
“If I can empower someone to get off the couch and learn how to play a new sport or do something new, learn some new talents, I love to do that.”