Curt Minard always had a childhood dream to one day play hockey for Team Canada.
When an industrial accident in Invermere in September 2008 cost the now-Vernon resident his left hand, amputated at the wrist, and with his right hand suffering third degree burns, Minard thought his hockey fantasy was done.
But he is currently in Tampere, Finland, proudly wearing the maple leaf on his chest, representing Canada as a forward at the World Standing Amputee Ice Hockey championships.
“I’m just ecstatic, I’m still in shock that I made the team,” said Minard, who turned 33 just prior to the world championships.
“I’m going to wear a Team Canada jersey. It’s a dream come true. Every kid and adult, I think, dreams of wearing that jersey. It’s pretty exciting and I’m thrilled to represent Canada.”
With the support of his wife, Danielle, and his two sons, Hunter, 12, and Maddex, eight, Minard strapped on the hockey pads again in September 2011 and started playing drop-in hockey three times a week at the Priest Valley Arena.
Because he’s a right-handed shot, Minard’s left hand is at the top of his hockey stick so that’s where his prosthesis attaches to his stick. He has a special attachment that goes over the stick, which basically acts as a swivel, and his right hand is underneath.
But as that right hand is badly damaged, Minard still doesn’t have a lot of wrist motion, so returning to hockey, a sport he played at many different levels, has required some adjustments.
“The more I get out and the more I practise, the more confident I get,” said Minard. “My shot has come from basically nothing from when I first started playing after my accident to being quite decent.
“I owe a lot of my skill building to a lot of those guys at the Priest Valley Arena. They don’t take it easy on me and I don’t expect them too. They’re a great bunch of guys that I battle with weekly down there, and it’s good.”
That competition gave Minard the confidence to try out for a spot on the national amputee squad.
He was invited to a first training camp in Toronto, then solidified his spot as a forward at a second camp in April in Georgetown, just outside of Toronto.
Every player on the national amputee squad, of course, has their own story, like Minard.
In most cases, something traumatic has happened to them that has resulted in them being an amputee, others are born without limbs. Their stories make the dressing room the best one Minard has experienced.
“It’s very self-healing to talk to people who understand the similarities,” he said.
“They have a story, like I do, and we thrive off each other.”
This will be the sixth World Standing Amputee Ice Hockey championship tournament, featuring six countries, and Canada has quite the impressive streak to maintain.
The national amputee squad has won all five previous gold medals, and has never lost an international game.
Cheering on Minard in Tampere is Danielle, while the boys will root from home.
“My whole family has given me unconditional support,” said Minard. “Danielle has been right there since the beginning. She’s had to support me through the accident and through many walks of life.
“My two boys push me, the youngest especially. He plays hockey in Vernon and thrives off it. Hunter is a skier but he likes to pick up the stick. We play quite a bit of road hockey at home and that helps me.”
There is an opportunity for some sponsorship to help with the costs of attending the world championships.
If you’d like to help out, you can contact Minard at firstname.lastname@example.org.