The Life of a Dual-Sport National Team Athlete

"Some day, my dream is to represent Canada in both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games."

Growing up in St. John's, Newfoundland I never expected that I would have the privilege of playing for Canada on the international stage in two Paralympic sports: wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey. I always thought that at some point in my life I would have to make the very difficult choice of choosing between my two passions if I was going to make the leap to the National/International level and represent my country at the Paralympic Games.

Well, so far so good. I've been fortunate enough to play both.

Wheelchair Basketball

In 2014 at age 16 I was named to the Senior Men's Wheelchair Basketball National Team. So far, I've played for Canada in a number of international competitions including the 2015 Parapan Am Games, and most recently at the 2016 Paralympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. To say this was a life-changing experience would be an understatement. I've learned so much and met so many people already in my wheelchair basketball career. I feel truly blessed to be where I am with so many great teammates and coaches, and I look forward to a long career as a member of Canada's National Men's Program.

Liam Hickey playing wheelchair basketball

My life got really busy in 2016 when I was also named to the Men's National Sledge Hockey Team. I am the first person from my province and one of a few in Canada to have ever actively played for both National Teams. My current sledge hockey teammate and friend Brad Bowden was one of those players, so "Bow" knows what it's like to play for both teams and the commitment required.

What Is Sledge Hockey?

Sledge hockey (recently rebranded as "Para Ice Hockey") is an exciting sport that incorporates the same rules and discipline structure as regular ice hockey. The sport was originally developed for players with physical disabilities. Increasingly, able-bodied players across the country are taking to the sport as well. Sledge hockey players sit on specially designed sleds with skate blades under the seat. Players use two sticks (up to 75 cm in length) to not only pass, stick-handle, and shoot the puck, but also to propel and maneuver their sleds about the ice. Like regular ice hockey, the game is played on regulation ice surfaces, with each team having six players on the ice at any one time. Teams are typically comprised of a maximum of 15 players per team, including two goaltenders.

Liam Hickey playing sledge hockey

I have personally found that the strength, agility, and team play skills are very transferable between wheelchair wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey, which is key to allowing me to make the transition between these two very exciting sports. I love the speed and contact of both sports, which drives me to train and compete every day.

Final Thoughts

My schedule for 2017 is looking pretty busy, with international sledge hockey tournaments in Italy and World Championships in South Korea, as well as the Junior Men's U-23 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Toronto in June. I'm really hoping I am selected to play for Canada in the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in South Kora. I'm super excited about the opportunity to play for Canada and hopefully bring home some medals. I am beginning to understand the commitment required to be a dual-sport national team athlete. Extensive training, travel, and competition is required to help my country be the best in the world. I wouldn't change a thing.

Watch a 1:30 video featuring Liam here

About the Author

Liam Hickey

Liam Hickey, 18 years old, was born in St. John's, NL, Canada missing the femur in his right leg due to a rare congenital condition known as Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD). Liam is currently a member of the Junior and Senior Men's National Teams in wheelchair basketball, and also a member of the Men's National Sled Hockey Team. He also represented Canada at the 2016 Paralympic Games and is committed to making the final cut for the sledge hockey team that will wear the Maple Leaf at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Liam currently resides in St. Johns, Newfoundland along with his mom Michelle, dad Todd, sister Megan, and Border Collie Mika.


Liam's ride is a Quickie All Court

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Date: 4/4/2017 12:00:00 AM

Awesome great article
4/15/2017 6:32:38 PM
Ryan Krygier
I saw this article on my personal Face Book Page. The Sled Hockey is what caught my eye. As I am a supporter of Sled Hockey in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am not a sled hockey player. I also have Spina Bifida and run / own a Spina Bifida Face Book Page called: Everyone Being aware of Spina Bifida . Anyone interested in learning about Spina Bifida, people with Spina Bifida or parents with children who have it, and finally people expecting a baby that has Spina Bifida are all welcome. Thanks, Ryan Krygier
4/5/2017 10:11:13 AM

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