'It's just the freedom:' Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

SASKATOON — A minor injury cost former Humboldt Broncos hockey player Jacob Wassermann an opportunity to compete at last month's adaptive water-ski world championship in Norway.

But he says that just getting to be part of the Canadian team has whetted his appetite for the sport and increased his determination to attend the next championship in Australia in a couple of years.

Wassermann was invited to complete as a prospect in Skarnes, Norway, but is planning a different way in next time.

"I'm going there as an athlete. I want to go as a full part of the team," Wassermann told The Canadian Press in an interview from his home in Saskatoon.

"That's my goal. It's a very achievable one in my opinion."

The former Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year when the junior hockey team's bus and a semi collided at an intersection in rural Saskatchewan. Sixteen people were killed.

Kirby Wassermann/The Canadian Press

Now 19, Wassermann took up adaptive water-skiing a year ago at the urging of national team member Nolan Barnes, who was paralyzed in a car accident nine years ago.

Wassermann will be back on the water this weekend as Saskatoon holds the provincial water-skiing championship.

"For me, it's just the freedom you get. You get out of your chair, get on the water and you're going fast ... not a lot of sports get that kind of speed and adrenaline," he said. "The season's almost over. We're running out of summer here. I'll ski until the year's over and it gets too cold to get into the water and I'm starting school."

The sport involves a specially modified wakeboard attached to a ski with a cage that the skier is strapped into. Athletes are expected to compete in three categories: tricks, slalom and jumping.

Wassermann said he was surprised at the camaraderie among the competitors in the international community.

"When they're on the water, you can tell they're going to work. But when they're off the water ... they're sort of hanging out, supporting their teams, supporting the other skiers," he said.

"It's a different environment from what I'm used to in the hockey world, where if it's not your team you're against them."

Wassermann is to begin classes at the University of Saskatchewan this fall. He hopes to eventually have a career in nutrition.