The annual celebration of all things hockey went on Saturday (February 13) when Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada was broadcast across the country.  

Not only did the day feature six of the seven Canadian NHL teams locking horns against one another, but this year the focus also fell on inclusion and diversity in the game and the NHL's efforts to do that.

A well-known Airdrie hockey player was involved in Saturday's broadcast.  Ryan Straschnitzki was on an outdoor rink along with hockey host Cassie Campbell-Pascal and his trainer and mentor Chris Cederstrand to talk about adaptive sports like sledge hockey.  Strashnitzki was happy to get the chance to discuss inclusion and diversity in hockey and believes every sport should be more that way.

"Hockey is for everyone, no matter the disability, or gender or whatever the case.  It's for everyone and I think every sport should do the same."

Straschnitzki is more of an expert on overcoming challenges and adversity than any young man should be.  In April 2018 he was paralyzed from the chest down in the awful Humboldt bus crash and has had to battle back from his terrible injuries. 

Straschnitzki and Cederstrand talked with Campbell-Pascal about how the Calgary Flames were helping the AMP program let kids become more involved in adaptive sports, like sledge-hockey.  Straschniizki says sledge hockey helped him immensely in his journey following the bus crash.   

"I think, personally, it helps both physically and mentally. It kind of helps a person open up and, whatever stress they've been going through, it gives them a sort of leeway out of it.  Exercise is proven by science to boost your mood and makes you feel better about yourself."

Getting back on the ice four months after the accident became a turning point for the Airdrie hockey player.  "I'm like, 'you know what?  Hockey's been such a big part of my life and I want to stay involved as much as I can and play the next best thing,' and that's sledge hockey for me.  Again, pretty fortunate to have the people around me to make that happen and the teammates and coaches that I have as well."

Even though he's only been involved in the sledge hockey world for just over two years, Straschnitzki has worked hard and made remarkable progress in the game.   Determined to keep reaching his goals, his target for hockey is to make the Canadian Paralympic team sometime in the future. 

"It's something I'm still working on.  It's something that you can never be too good at so I'm always working on little things and working on the muscles that I need to play the sport.  I think in the past two years I've progressed quite well.  I was able to crack the provincial team and I guess the next step from here is to try and make a try-out team for Team Canada.  I'm just enjoying the process along the way and just having fun with it and seeing where it takes me but also putting in the work to achieve my goals."