During the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada, the sixth annual Canadian Para-Ice Hockey Championships emanated from the Gilles Chabot Ice Centre in Boucherville, Quebec, twenty-five minutes southeast of Montreal. This year’s tournament featured the most teams ever represented at a championship in Canada, which is a testament to the growth of the sport across the nation.
Matteo Pellizzari is another youngster who represented their home province at the Canadian Para Ice Hockey Championships. Pellizzari, a 16-year-old from Vancouver who lives with his father, a corrections officer, and mother, a nurse, was able to experience the thrill of putting on the Maple Leaf as he was named to the 2022 roster for the Para Hockey Cup in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.
In Boucherville, Pellizzari had four multi-point games and led his team in scoring for the tournament with ten goals and one assist.
Alberta is perennially one of the strongest teams in the competition, winning four gold medals in the last five years while participating in every edition of the tournament. Alberta historically brings a strong team to this event, and this year was no different.
And you may already be familiar with Ryan Straschnitski.
Ryan played hockey in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and was a member of the Humboldt Broncos, who were involved in a tragic bus accident. Along with many teammates and staff who lost their lives that day, Straschnitski lost the ability to walk due to injuries he sustained. Through recovery and physiotherapy, Ryan discovered para-ice hockey, which he credits with helping him become the person he is today.
Ryan is not only a member of Team Alberta but also a forward for the Canadian National Para Ice Hockey Development Team. In six games played in Boucherville, Straschnitski had one assist.
If you were only able to focus on one player from Saskatchewan, you’d be dialled in on Tracey Arnold. Arnold, a member of the Canadian Women’s Para Ice Hockey Team since 2019, is a veteran of Saskatchewan, not due to her age but also her experience at an international level. Arnold experienced a life-altering accident at the age of 12 due to a car accident that also took her father's life.
Arnold was introduced to Para Ice Hockey in 2015 and openly admitted the first time she was able to get into a sled she was “quite emotional”. She’s been blessed to have her family by her side cheering her on since her decision to play hockey again. Arnold backstopped Saskatchewan in four of its six games and carried a goals-against average of 2.75. Arnold enters the 2022-2023 season with the Canadian Women’s Para Ice Hockey Team where she will battle for the number one spot in goal.
Manitoba’s first appearance at the championships was special for all involved, but for goaltender Logan Bilodeau, it wasn’t his first rodeo. The 25-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba has competed for Team Canada and has been an invitee to Hockey Canada’s NEXT GEN camp and its Para Ice Hockey Development camp. Bilodeau split time evenly in goal for Manitoba with Kyle Calder. While protecting the net, Bilodeau started three games for Manitoba finishing with two wins and a loss.
Team Ontario is lucky in the sense that it can pull talent from a larger pool of players than any other province. Ontario was also lucky enough to have Chadd Stoppa suit up for the team for the first time. Stoppa, a 2007-born forward who plays for the Canadian National Development Team has been on Canada’s radar since being granted a wish by the Sunshine Foundation and Team Canada in 2018. He played in all six games for Ontario and scored three goals.
Team Quebec, the reigning Canadian Para Ice Hockey Champions, was a solid squad once again and due to its pedigree, it boasts several players that have represented Team Canada within the National, Women and Development teams. One of the stars of the team is 21-year-old Raphaelle Tousignant.
Tousignant, a native of Terrebonne, Quebec, was diagnosed with bone cancer as a child and had her right leg amputated at the hip at the age of ten.
When she was 12, Tousignant expressed that one day she would be playing for the national team, becoming the first woman in Canada to accomplish that feat.
At home in Boucherville, the young yet experienced forward scored three goals and assisted seven others. After playing for Team Quebec in her backyard, Tousignant joined her national team teammates for the 2023 World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Eric Payne grew up as a member of a branch of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Payne, the elder statesman of Team New Brunswick isn’t necessarily the best player on his team, but his leadership and drive speak for themself. The 57-year-old doesn’t take anything for granted and that’s evident strictly due to his life experience. A resident of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Payne’s connection to Saint John, New Brunswick gave him the ability to compete for the maritime province.
Although Eric didn’t factor on the scoreboard, he was integral in helping fundraise money for his team so their out-of-pocket costs were minimal. When Payne isn’t on the ice or helping make difficult decisions for the para ice hockey clubs that he’s involved in, he can be found behind the mic as a radio broadcaster, stand-up comedian or on the switchboard assisting a professional entertainment company.