Meet the one-handed goalie stopping shots with a custom glove

Callie Bizuk, in her full goalie gear, during a practice for the Sherwood Park U-16 A Strike ringette team. (Emily Senger/CBC - image credit)
Callie Bizuk, in her full goalie gear, during a practice for the Sherwood Park U-16 A Strike ringette team. (Emily Senger/CBC - image credit)

Callie Bizuk isn't very good at taking no for an answer.

The goalie has been playing ringette since she was a little kid, even after some coaches told her she shouldn't.

A below-the elbow amputee, 14-year-old Callie was born without her right hand.

"I had a couple coaches, when I was younger, who said I couldn't do it because of my limb difference," Callie said. "I said 'I'm going to do it, and I'll be the best!'"

On a weekday evening, Callie sits in a rink dressing room in the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park, wearing her red U-16 A Strike practice jersey.

"I don't have a right hand," Callie said. "I was born like this. They don't know why. I'm just me."

Callie plays ringette at the second highest level for her age group, with eyes on making the top-tier team next season.

Being a one-handed goalie hasn't always been a smooth journey. Callie had some help along the way, including from a dedicated prosthetist and from a former national team goalie who designed a one-of-a-kind goalie glove.

Early days at the rink

Callie's mom, Kim Bizuk, remembers Callie playing as a four-year-old.

"Her prosthetic was quite heavy when she first started," Kim said. "She was down on the ice as much as she was standing up."

Emily Senger/CBC
Emily Senger/CBC

When Callie got the hang of gliding, there was a new challenge.

"She would glide in a full circle, because the prosthetic would pull her to one side," said Kim. "She just never quit."

Callie, listening beside her mom, breaks into giggles.

"I never heard that story before," she said.

What Callie does remember is the attention that came with being a goalie.

"At the end of the game, everyone came and gave me a hug," Callie said. "I kind of fell in love with it."

As she started to play goal more, her parents would tape a goalie glove to her little arm, using hockey tape, and hope for the best.

"It didn't really save anything," Callie said.

An arm and a glove

It was time to bring in outside help.

Callie and her family had already worked with Lisa Peters, a certified prosthetist at Northern Alberta Prosthetic and Orthotic Services in Edmonton. The relationship between Callie and Peters goes way back.

Peters was studying how to make prosthetics at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby, B.C., at the time.

Emily Senger/CBC
Emily Senger/CBC

"I am good friends with Callie's aunt and uncle," Peters said. "I got a text from the family, saying they had just found out they were going to have a daughter with a limb difference. They had questions."

Peters answered those questions and went on to make Callie her first prosthetic when she was six months old.

However, a prosthetic device for a ringette goalie presented a new challenge.

"We make lots of sports devices," said Peters. "But never a ringette goalie device."

Peters started researching. She called in Keely Brown, a former national-level ringette goalie, to consult on the best angle for the prosthetic arm and glove.

Within a couple of fittings, they had the new glove all dialled in.

Shutting out the competition

Callie recalls trying her prosthetic goalie glove for the first time.

"It was a surreal experience," she said. "I could actually play properly. I saved a lot more shots on the right side. I could pick up the ring faster. I could also throw the ring more."

Compared with other ringette goalies, Callie still has some disadvantages. She has to do physiotherapy to build up muscles in her back on the side where she wears the prosthetic. And when she makes a glove save, she has to switch the ring to her left hand, to chuck it out to her teammates.

Emily Senger/CBC
Emily Senger/CBC

Callie is known on the team as a hard worker, said Shelley Derewianka, Callie's current coach.

"You don't even realize she has that prosthetic on," Derewianka said. "The team has tons of confidence with her, so it makes it easy for me to coach the team, because we have a solid person in the net."

Callie's defensive teammates agree.

"She makes amazing saves. I don't know how she does it," said teammate Natalie Endres.

Now that she has the right gear for the game, Callie has big goals for the future.

"I want to try and make Team Canada," she said. "It would also be fun to play at school, at university. I just want to be the best I can."