National para hockey athlete shares journey back to the ice

Canada's National Para Hockey Team is in London, Ont. this week to compete for the Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup title.

The national team beat Korea on Wednesday at the international tournament being held at the Western Fair Sports Centre.

The new roster was assembled back in September and started its season in London, where some of the national players first got their start, including Paralympic silver medallist James Dunn.

Prior to representing Canada, the 18-year-old played for the London Blizzard Sledge Hockey Club, where he honed his skills and prepared for a career that would go on to land him several titles.

Journey back to the ice

The Wallacetown native and avid hockey player first came to London after he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, at the age of 11. He had his right leg amputated. Months later, the cancer returned, attacking his lungs.

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"It was pretty crazy," Dunn reminisced on Wednesday.

"When I first found out, my first question to the doctor was: 'Would I be able to play hockey again?'… I was just fighting for my life. I just wanted to stay alive."

After he won both his battles with cancer, he subsequently returned to the ice after a push from his now teammate Tyler McGregor, who also played for the London Blizzard.

"Anything is possible, just keep fighting and never give up on your dreams and they'll come true," Dunn said.

Dunn's journey has no doubt inspired many, including some of his former teammates like Lane Sergeant, who still plays for the London team.

"It's really good seeing them doing well," said Sergeant, who took the day off to see his old buddies play.

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"Seeing how far you can get and seeing how much the sport has grown in the last little while is inspiring to everybody. It always makes me want to push a little bit harder," he added.

The 28-year-old who was born with cerebral palsy has been playing sledge hockey since the age of seven.

"And it gets better every year," said Sergeant.

London tournament

The sports centre was filled with roaring fans cheering on the Canadian team.

Alexa Sherritt and Teaghan O'Leary, both 11, said their first Para ice hockey game didn't disappoint.

"I just wanted to see how this game would sort of work … It's kinda different and cool for me at the same time," said Sherritt.

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 "I knew this game would be different but I didn't know it would be this different. It looks a lot harder to me," added O'Leary.

The display of support was so overwhelming, head coach Ken Babey said "the support inspires the guys. It makes us feel proud to be Canadian and be part of this team and be responsible for a good effort."

Canada is scheduled to play the U.S. on Thursday to help determine who will move on to compete for gold Saturday.

After the tournament, the national team will undergo decentralized training camps and online fitness checkups before competing in a cross-border series with the U.S. in March. The season will wrap up in April at the World Para Hockey Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic.