By Dillon Thomas
DENVER (CBS4)– Two survivors of last April’s Humboldt Broncos bus crash were given the chance to return to the ice, Friday, thanks to the Dawg Nation Foundation. Ryan Straschnitzki and Jacob Wasserman were on their team bus in Canada, when it was struck by a semi.
A total of 16 people, mostly teammates, were killed and 13 were injured. After months of physical therapy, and recovery, Straschnitzki and Wasserman were strong enough to play hockey once again, this time via sledge.
“That is the longest I’ve spent in my whole life off the ice,” Wasserman said.
Colorado’s DAWG Nation invited the teenagers to play sledge hockey at Magness Arena, the home of the DU Pioneers. Both said they had always heard of the DU hockey team, and it was cool to have the chance to play somewhere they’ve always dreamt of.
As a result of the crash, both teenagers now rely on wheelchairs for mobility. However, returning to the ice at Magness Arena was an escape from reality.
“Words can’t describe it. It is like time doesn’t exist,” Straschnitzki said.
“I think it is going to be emotional, is what I think it is going to be,” said Marty Richardson of DAWG Nation.
While the game was only seven minutes, both teens loved the opportunity to play the sport they love.
“It was the most amazing feeling,” Wasserman said.
“You’re out there doing what you love to do, and nothing else in the world matters,” Straschnitzki said.
Thanks to the generosity of the hockey community in Colorado, and around the world, the teens were able to take the ice sooner than they once imagined.
“All over the world has come together to support us,” Wasserman said.
“They’ve come together to help us out, and support everyone through this tragedy,” Straschnitzki said.
Both admitted the game of hockey is more difficult when playing sledge. However, they said learning the new aspects to the game was an exciting new challenge.
“You go in to sledge hockey, and you are starting from point zero,” Wasserman said.
“It is frustrating when you can’t get things right off the bat in sledge,” Straschnitzki said. “Hockey is more than just a game. It is about the relationships you make, the life lessons you learn, and growing up facing adversities at points. I’ll fall a thousand times, but I will keep getting up.”
The duo hopes, one day, to take their new love for sledge hockey all the way to the Olympics.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.