Saskatoon woman becomes first Sask. player to make national women's sledge hockey team
SASKATOON -- Bright and early Sunday mornings, you'll find Tracey Arnold on the ice playing co-ed sledge hockey with the Saskatoon Ice Tornadoes.
"It was just one of those times I was ready to try something new in my life," Arnold said.
She grew up playing hockey, but after getting in a car accident at age 12, that dream was over.
"I grew up on a farm in southeast Saskatchewan, so it was actually in the United States. We were going to visit some friends and it ended up being a freak thing that happened," she said.
Her father died in the crash, the rest of her family was injured and Arnold was left paralyzed from the waist down.
She was told she would never walk again, but defied the odds. Despite the long-term nerve damage, Arnold walks with a cane.
It wasn't until five years ago that she discovered sledge hockey, eventually making Team Canada.
"It was fun to see her go on the ice for the first time," said her husband, Richard Riegel.
"I feel fortunate and sometimes it's a little overwhelming. I feel like there's a more responsibility now," she said.
The U of S alumna is a trailblazer in the sport, becoming the first player from Saskatchewan to make the national women's team.
"I thought it was really awesome for her. Her hard work has paid off," said Neal Renwick, coach of the Ice Tornadoes.
"Some of our players have a lot of extra needs. Getting them up, in, and out of wheel chairs and on the ice by 7:30 on a Sunday morning is no small feat," he said.
While Arnold's husband, Riegel, and two-year-old son, Silas, make it out to most practices and games, she can't help but think of her father while on the ice.
She said if her dad could see her accomplishments he would be "very proud, but also probably not surprised."
"That was part of our family – we have a great work ethic, we are very good at setting goals and achieving them … that was something that my parents definitely instilled in us when were younger, so I know he'd be super proud," she said.
Arnold will head to Vancouver in February, where the Canadian women's team will play against the United States.