Athlete feature:

Madison McKenzie Thrives in Her First Year of Para Hockey

As Madison McKenzie played confidently with her para hockey teammates at the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex, one would have guessed that she was a seasoned player.

“I’ve never played a full game before,” she admitted.  “I was nervous, but more excited.”

Having only been playing para hockey since November 2023, Madison attended her first BC Para Hockey Provincials on March 16 and 17, 2024, an event organized by SportAbility that gathers players of all ages and skill levels from para hockey programs across BC and beyond. Participants took part in a skills competition, as well as three-on-three and five-on-five games. 

“It’s so much fun. I think the environment is really cool,” she commented about the event. “And it was also fun to play with those whom I have only met for the first time.”

Growing up in Mission, BC, Madison is no stranger to hockey.  Besides being a lifelong Canucks fan and attending Vancouver Giants hockey games with her family, Madison also played ball hockey from age six to 16. “I started playing ball hockey because I wanted to be like my brother,” she recalled.  “I love hockey. I like the community that it creates and it’s a place where people can come together and share their love of the sport.”  

After an accident that led Madison to become a wheelchair user, she re-discovered her love for hockey in a new way. The welcoming and supportive para hockey community helped Madison to quickly adjust to life in a wheelchair and to gain new abilities.  

“A year into my recovery, I wanted to play para hockey. So, I just searched up ‘sledge hockey near me’ online, and I found SportAbility…Everybody on the ice has been amazing,” she said with a smile. “I’m glad that I have found this community.”

Even though Madison has played hockey for most of her life, getting onto the ice as a para hockey player for the first time was an overwhelming experience.  

“Oh, my goodness, I cried on the way home because I was so excited,” she fondly recalled her feelings after her first practice.  “As a newly disabled person, being able to come onto the ice and feeling like you can take part and accomplish something is really empowering and fun.”

Regular exercises, lifting weights, and having physiotherapy sessions have kept Madison both physically and mentally fit.  She also practices stickhandling at home and hits the ice twice to three times a week to improve her hockey skills.  Madison may be early in her para hockey career, but she aspires to make the national women’s team.

“I think a lot of the players keep saying that they want to get me there, so before that I just need to build my craft and maybe make Team BC…I learn as much as I can from the coaches and other players at practices, so I can grow in the sport and be the best player that I can.” 

Her effort at the BC Provincials won her the Most Valuable Player award.  She took this experience and success to her first sanctioned tournament—the Western Canadian Para Hockey Tournament March 29-31 in Calgary, Alberta. Participating with a team from Edmonton, Madison’s team finished in fourth place in the Intermediate C+ division.

When asked to share some advice for new para hockey players, Madison encouraged anyone who is interested in para hockey not to be afraid to try the sport.  

“I think those who are newly disabled like I was would often let fear get in the way of trying new things…But when I got onto the ice, I was like, ‘Wow! I can do this!’ and I was so excited. Para hockey may seem hard, but it’s a fun sport, and everyone in the para hockey community is amazing; they welcome you and get you to be the best player that you can be.”

Perhaps new para hockey players will not only admire Madison’s perseverance, but to also follow her path by joining the ever-growing para hockey community and being the best players that they can.

Interested in learning more about how you can get involved in para hockey in BC? Check out the SportAbility website to find a program near you!   

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