A dream come true

Dave Mathieson
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Amhersts Brad Blenkhorn suits up for Team Canada at Standing Amputee championships

A dream come true

AMHERST - Achieving goals is nothing new for Amherst hockey player Brad Blenkhorn. Now he's achieved the ultimate hockey goal of wearing a Canadian jersey at a world championship.

Next week the 27-year-old winger will compete in the Standing Amputee World Championships at the New England Sports Centre in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

"It's exciting to see your name on a Team Canada jersey and to play hockey for your country" Blenkhorn said. "It's a dream come true."

The Championship is a four-team tournament.

"We don't start practice until Monday, then we start with Latvia on Tuesday, Finland on Wednesday and then it's the U.S. on Friday night. The top two go to the gold," Blenkhorn said.

Canada is expected to do well.

"Canada has never lost an international competition. There's been three world championships and Canada's won all three."

The championships were held in 2003, 2004 and 2006.

America has won silver all three years, while Latvia was this year's European champion and Finland won the European bronze.

Blenkhorn is the only person on the team from Atlantic Canada.

"There's six from Quebec, seven from Ontario and the rest are scattered throughout Western Canada," Blenkhorn said. "It feels good to be the only person east of Quebec on the team."

Blenkhorn lost his right leg above the ankle in an accident when he was 18 months old and he came up through the Cumberland hockey system.

"I started playing hockey when I was three with what would be the Timbits now but what was the mites back then," Blenkhorn said. "Being an amputee never bothered me and everyone was good with it. It's good to be from a small town. You get to know more people than you would in a big city and most people are accepting."

Blenkhorn says if there's one characteristic that drives him it would have to be stubbornness.

"I always wanted to prove people wrong," Blenkhorn said.

He says playing with other amputees is inspiring.

"It's amazing what you see," Blenkhorn said. "We have a guy on our team missing two arms. He plays with two hooks. It's amazing to see. He's a very good defenceman."

Three quarters of the team are arm amputees.

"The top caliber players in amputee hockey are arm amps with a disability below the elbow," Blenkhorn said. "Because you still have your legs for skating your not as slow getting around."

Blenkhorn recently received a new leg that cost $20,000.00.

"It's a vacuum leg," Blenkhorn said. "There's a vacuum pack so it sucks right to my leg. There's no pistoning up and down and I don't have to worry about a brace or anything like that."

Does he foresee a day where an amputee will play in the NHL?

"I can't see it, I'd love to see it, but I can't foresee an NHL player with a disability. It's too rough a game."

With that said, he could see a pro team possibly have an amputee as a novelty some day.

And what does he think about the South African double leg amputee sprinter, Oscar Pistorious, who will not be allowed to run in the 2008 Olympics?

"I think it's fair he's not running," Blenkhorn said. "If a guy has scientists and physicists and people doing aerodynamics on his legs and all that other stuff, it could be a definite advantage."

Blenkhorn is looking forward to the World Championship.

"It's great playing with those guys," Blenkhorn said. "You always want to work at least as hard as the guy next to you. You see how hard it is for them to go through what they are going through and it makes you want to try harder."


Organizations: Team Canada, New England Sports Centre, Cumberland NHL

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Latvia, Finland U.S. Quebec Marlborough, Massachusetts Ontario

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