Seven months after they were both paralyzed in a devastating bus crash, Humboldt Broncos teammates Ryan Straschnitzki and Jacob Wasserman will have a proper reunion.
Straschnitzki, a defenceman, and Wasserman, a goaltender, last played together in April during the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs.
But the hockey team’s season was cut short when a crash between the Broncos bus and a semi-trailer at a rural intersection killed 16 people and left 13 others with serious injuries.
The two young men have been in contact constantly since the accident, which paralyzed Straschnitzki from the chest down and Wasserman from the navel down.
Both have turned to sledge hockey to keep their on-ice dream alive, and they’ve been invited to participate in a short exhibition game at the University of Denver on Friday.
“We’re going to an NCAA game and you know that was mine and Wasserman’s goal — to play college hockey or pro hockey and it’s going to be exciting,” said Straschnitzki.
“During the intermission, we’re playing a little sledge hockey scrimmage, so it’ll be the first time I’m on the ice with Wasserman since back in April, so I’m pretty pumped.”
The scrimmage will be during an extended first period of a National Collegiate Athletic Association game between the University of Denver Pioneers and the Providence Friars.
The weekend will also include dropping the puck at an NHL Colorado Avalanche game as well as attending an NFL game with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Straschnitzki is most excited about the on-ice reunion.
“It’s going to be thrilling, exciting, a whole mix of emotions, but I’m happy that I have him. We went through similar injuries and we’re there for each other,” he said.
“We’re going through the same thing right now and, if we have each other’s backs, I think one day we’ll get through it.”
The invitation to Denver came from The Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation, a charity which helps adult hockey players and their families in times of crises due to catastrophic injury or illness.
“It’s going to be really, really great,” said Marty Richardson, executive director for Dawg National.
Straschnitzki played in an exhibition sledge hockey charity game in Calgary in September. He practises four nights a week and aims to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press