Ezra McPhail, a 20-year-old forward from Antigo, Wis., suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury playing in a game for the Granite City Lumberjacks at the 3HL Showcase on Dec. 6 in Darien, Ill.
The next step in his hockey career has taken an uplifting and dramatic turn as USA Hockey announced the players selected for the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team and the U.S. National Development Sled Hockey Team. McPhail, who began playing sled hockey in the Spring, was named to the U.S. National Development Sled Hockey Team. All players that participated in the Sled Select Camp and the National Team try-outs should be congratulated as this year was one of the toughest for the coaching staff to make their selections.
He learned how to play sled hockey in March, which provides opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in hockey. Players sit in sleds and there are two sticks for each player instead of one and the sticks have metal picks on the butt end for players to propel themselves in sled hockey.
“I’m still learning,” McPhail said. “I started playing as soon as I could with the Minnesota Northern team, which is made up of adults 18 and older. Some of the players have been playing for five years and they’re teach me a lot. “I’ve learned a lot about turning and stopping."
But McPhail said that playing with the Northern is a great experience. “I love it,” said McPhail, “I haven’t had so much fun skating since (Granite City) won the Bush Cup (last season). “It was just a blast.”
After he was injured, McPhail was in a Chicago hospital before transferring to Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis. McPhail, whose dream was to play college hockey, spent about 3 1/2 weeks there as he worked on learning to walk again.
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