Like most kids, Brody Roybal was looking for a sport to play growing up. Born a congenital bilateral amputee, meaning he doesn’t have a femur in either leg, Roybal took a try at wheelchair basketball and wheelchair softball. Then, at the age of eight, he was introduced to sled hockey.
He was hooked.
“I wanted to play sled hockey because it’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting game,” said Roybal, currently a sophomore at West Leyden High School outside of Chicago. “It’s more physical and more fun. Once I got on the ice I knew it was something I wanted to keep playing.”
Roybal’s choice to keep playing has paid off. He’s skated with the NHL’s RIC Blackhawks at the 2011 and 2012 USA Hockey Sled Classic Championships and attended USA Hockey Player Development Camps in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He was part of the U.S. National Developmental Sled Hockey Team last season and has since been named to the 2014. U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team.
But it’s not just about on-ice performance.
“I’ve been able to meet and make so many friends through sled hockey,” said Roybal, one of the younger members on the national sled team. “Playing with some of the older guys on the national team has taught me a lot, too. I think I’ve matured as a player.
“It’s just been a really fun, great experience.”
Roybal and the rest of the sled hockey team wouldn’t be able to compete like they do without the proper funding. Sled hockey receives approximately $75,000 a year through the USA Hockey Foundation thanks largely to the generous contributions from so many donors around the world. Grants for equipment, growing the game and helping associations start up sled hockey – like Roybal’s Chicago program – are all benefactors of the thousands of dollars in donations made each year.
“Support from the USA Hockey Foundation helps fund all areas of disabled hockey,” said Jeremy Kennedy, USA Hockey’s USA Hockey’s manager of membership and disabled hockey. “All four disciples of disabled hockey -- deaf/hard of hearing, sled, special and standing/amputee – are continuing to grow and it’s wonderful to see so many donors supporting our disabled hockey program.”
Without donors or sled hockey, Roybal doesn’t know if he would have chosen a different sport or outlet or even coped with his disability like he has. But he does know he’s thrilled to be representing USA Hockey this year – and thankful for the opportunity.
“I’m just thankful to be a part of it all,” said Roybal. “I really am very lucky for that.”
For more information and to make a donation to the USA Hockey Foundation, please visit www.USAHockeyFoundation.com.
Brody Roybal on the ice