The 2023 World Para-Ice Hockey Championships takes place on May 28 to June 4 for the first time in Canada, at the Moose Jaw Events Centre in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
It will feature eight of the best Para-Ice hockey teams in the world, and it is sure to be some of the most exciting and unique hockey Western Canada has ever seen.
The eight teams skating in Moose Jaw have been separated into two pools. Pool A begins with top-ranked United States of America, and number two, Canada. The Republic of Korea finished fourth in Beijing but is ranked third globally, and Czechia is fourth.
Pool B participants include Italy, with a world ranking of 8th; Norway ranked fifth; and China and Germany, ranked 6th and 7th, respectively.
The Paralympic and World Champion United States have arguably the best Para-Ice Hockey player in Declan Farmer from Tampa, Florida. Farmer, a veteran of three Paralympic Winter games in which Team USA has won gold each time, has a career stat line with 117 games played, including five World Championships.
During that time, Famer contributed with 134 goals, 112 assists for 246 points, and 44 penalty minutes.
The host Canadians were runners-up at the most recent World Championship and Paralympics.
Forest, Ontario’s Tyler McGregor, leads Canada. McGregor, named captain in 2019, was the youngest member announced to Team Canada's roster in 2012, where he notched two assists against Japan in his debut.
During the winter of 2023, McGregor, who expressed that his hero is Terry Fox, skated forty-two kilometres (26.098 miles) through each province and territory in Canada to raise $100,000 for the Terry Fox Foundation and cancer research.
A newcomer to the Canadian team is 20-year-old Raphaelle Tousignant from Terrebonne, Quebec. Tousignant, a member of club team Transat De Montréal and the Canadian Women's Para-Ice Hockey team, made history by becoming the first woman named to the men's Para Ice Hockey team.
Republic of Korea
A participant in four Paralympic Games dating back to Vancouver in 2010, was a member of a Korean national squad that won a bronze medal at home during the 2018 games in Pyeongchang.
Dong Shin Jang is the leader and captain of Korea. The 47-year-old won a silver medal at the 2012 World Championships, by upsetting Canada in the semi-finals and losing to the eventual gold medallist, the United States. Jang plays for Gangwon Provincial Official at home in Korea.
Czechia finished sixth at the Paralympic Games. Captained by Radek Zelinka, who is no stranger to adversity, hopes to carry that to the tournament alongside his teammates.
The thirty-two-year-old from Kadah, Czechia, who also plays for the SKV Sharks Karlovy Vary Para Ice Hockey team, is not satisfied with the teams previous showing at the Ostrava World Para-Ice Hockey Championships, where they finished fifth on home soil.
Zelinka, a single-leg amputee, lost his leg after an altercation, resulting in extensive blood loss. As a result of the injury, doctors amputated his leg above the thigh.
Italy's Para-Ice Hockey program was introduced in 2006 when Torino won the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Italians were upset by bronze medallist and host Korea at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympic Games.
Throughout the program, the Azzurri have had many leaders who helped build the program into what it is today, including a veteran of four Paralympic Games, Andrea Macri.
Macri is not only a veteran on the ice but, along with teammate Alessandro Andreoni and former teammate Gabriele Lanza, he is helping lead the charge with the Milano-Cortino 2026 organizing committee as the country and region prepare to host the Olympic and Paralympic games.
Norway's Para-Ice Hockey history is that of a juggernaut. Since the induction of Para Ice Hockey at the Paralympic Games in 1994, the Norwegians have secured one gold, three silver and a bronze medal.
The Norway Ice Hockey Federation announced shortly after the 2022 Paralympic Games that the organization had hired a new head coach, Ken Babey. Babey coached the Canadian National Para Ice Hockey Team from 2014 to 2022. Before that, Babey coached the men's program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology for twenty-seven years.
Norway's leader, by all accounts, is club VIF Para-Ice Hockey player Morten Vaernes. However, they will rely heavily on a mix of veterans and a young group of players.
The Norwegians know that they are in the rebuilding phase as they haven't medaled at a Paralympics or World Championships since 2010.
The Chinese National Para Ice Hockey Team was created out of necessity in 2017 after Beijing received word that the city was the recipient of the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
China's Para-Ice Hockey program named a woman to their team for that Paralympic Games competition. Jing Yu became the third woman Para-Ice Hockey player to compete at the Winter Paralympic Games. She joins Lena Schroder, a 2018 Norwegian National Team member, and Britt Mjaasund Oyen, who competed for Norway in the inaugural Para-Ice Hockey competition at the 1994 Lillehammer Paralympics.
The Chinese National Para-Ice team beat the Republic of Korea 4-0 in the bronze medal game at home in Beijing during the 2022 Paralympic Games. Fifteen members representing China in Beijing will return to compete in Moose Jaw, including their leader, Yatao Cui.
Cui is no stranger to competition. The 38-year-old, who required leg amputation below the knee after being involved in a motor vehicle accident twenty years prior, describes that he became involved in Para-Ice Hockey shortly after China won the hosting rights for the 2022 Paralympic Games.
If Cui can stay injury-free; he has previously fractured his right ankle, left hand, and collarbone, he can propel China to the podium.
The German Ice Hockey Federation's Para Ice Hockey team rounds out the nations competing in Moose Jaw for the 2023 Para Ice Hockey World Championships. Germany opens the World Para Ice Hockey Championships on Sunday, May 28th, 2023, against Norway.
The Germans, who played several friendlies against Norway at the end of April to prepare for the competition, secure their back end with Felix Schrader, a blueliner.
Shrader, regarded as one of the best in the world at his position, is known for his strong defensive play and ability to move the puck up the ice. Schrader is also a valuable member of the German power play unit, where his strong shot from the point can be a real weapon.