Para ice hockey player Garrett Riley fondly remembers Paralympian Search
OTTAWA – One of the best decisions Garrett Riley ever made in his sports career was making the six-hour drive from Brantford to Montreal in April 2017 to participate in the Paralympian Search.
Open to athletes of all experience levels, Paralympian Search is a one-day identification event designed to test participant aptitudes to excel in various Paralympic sports, and maybe one day represent Canada at the Paralympic Games.
Montreal hosts the next Paralympian Search this Saturday June 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Institut national du sport du Québec located at Olympic Stadium.
Today Riley is a member of Canada’s Para ice hockey development team and is a strong contender to land a spot on the main national team this fall.
‘’I knew it would be a good experience to go and check out the Paralympian Search,’’ he remembered. ‘’It gets you talking to different people in different sports.
‘’It was definitely worth it.’’
Prior to the 2017 Montreal Paralympian Search, Riley was already playing Para ice hockey. He was a member of the Ontario provincial team and was the top scorer at the 2017 Ontario ParaSport Games.
But in Montreal there was a unique opportunity with the presence of national team coach Ken Babey and team manager Marshall Starkman. Riley was able to show his strength, dexterity and speed through various exercises such as vertical jumping, medicine ball control and hand-eye coordination.
‘’It was great for me to be able to meet them in person and show some of my physical and personal attributes,’’ said Riley, 23. ‘’They told me I need to keep working on my speed and strength and that I was on their radar.’’
His performances impressed Babey and Starkman. He maintained his hard work both on and off the ice and this past February, Riley was invited to the national team development camp.
‘’I was thrilled when they called me to come out to the development try-outs.’’
At age 15, Riley was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – the same cancer as Terry Fox. He had a tumour on his left knee and three large black spots on his lungs. They were initially able to save the leg in a 2011 surgery, which left him cancer-free, but complications arose last year due to infection and his left leg was amputated.
He is still in rehabilitation to get accustomed to his new situation but he plans to be ready for the upcoming season.
‘’It was nerve-wracking at first to be on the ice with some of the best players in Canada,’’ Riley said about the developmental try-out with Hockey Canada. ‘’There were a few challenges early on but nothing I can’t overcome if I keep working and practicing.’’