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From tragic accident to paralympic dreams: Ryan Straschnitzki's story

It was an accident few in Saskatchewan will ever forget.
Ryan Straschnitzki has turned to thoughts of parahockey, and today is focused on securing a spot on Team Canada and then onto a medal at the 2026 Paralympics in Italy.

YORKTON - It was an accident few in Saskatchewan will ever forget.

It was 2018 when a semi-trailer blew through a stop sign and into the Humboldt Broncos team's bus. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured.

Ryan Straschnitzki was among the injured. He was paralyzed from the chest down and his hockey days seemed to be behind him.

But Straschnitzki told those attending the Yorkton Secon Maulers sportsman dinner Saturday that the adage ‘when one door closes another opens’ is true, if a person has the mindset to believe it.

For Straschnitzki that meant changing his hockey dream even as he lay in a hospital bed in Saskatoon just days after the tragic accident.

Straschnitzki quickly turned to thoughts of parahockey, and today is focused on securing a spot on Team Canada and then onto a medal at the 2026 Paralympics in Italy.

It’s a case of focusing on what is possible, he said.

“It’s not falling into a fixed mindset,” he said, adding when you do fall into a fixed mindset you are often unchangeable in your approach.”

Instead you need to have a “growth mindset,” something Straschnitzki said allows one to be adaptable and by adapting you are able to “overcome and succeed.”

It was an approach Straschnitzki said he actually learned as he progressed through hockey. He said there were various times he attended camps, heard positive things from coaches, but then was told he had not made the team.

The cuts were hard to take, said Straschnitzki, adding there were times he wanted to quit the game, but he didn’t.

Instead, Straschnitzki chose to focus on getting better. He said he believed if he just worked hard he could make the team the next opportunity.

That wasn’t always the case, but Straschnitzki said he persevered in pursuit of his dream to play hockey at a high level.

Then there was the accident.

“I heard a scream at the front of the bus,” he said, adding he caught a glimpse of the semi trailer coming. “Then boom. Then everything’s black.”

When Straschnitzki came out of it he said “my first instinct was to get up.”

He couldn’t and thought he was trapped, but saw he wasn’t. Due to the injury he couldn’t even call for help.

“When you’re 18-years-old, isolated, helpless, unable to help yourself, you’re scared,” said Straschnitzki.

Finally, a bystander came and stayed with him until he was rushed to hospital in Tisdale. He had injuries to his back, head and “to my entire body.”

Straschnitzki was soon air lifted to Saskatoon. The news was not good.

“The doctors gave me a less than two per cent chance of walking again,” he said.

Straschnitzki said as a high level athlete he chose to take the situation as a challenge.

He said he would “not let doctors dictate the rest of my life.”

Straschnitzki still works toward walking again, but has regained enough control to stand and swing a golf club.

That’s a huge accomplishment considering when he began physiotherapy he couldn’t sit on the edge of his bed and reach out and touch a piece of paper held by his therapist.

“I missed it over and over. I was so mad,” he said, but he kept at it.

No matter what the situation, Straschnitzki said “you are more than capable of achieving your goals . . . with perseverance anything can happen.”

So the next step is Team Canada.

“At the end of the day I’m an athlete. I want to get back to hockey. It’s so much of who I am,” said Straschnitzki.

Four months after the accident he was on the ice on a sled, and asking himself, “how far can I take this sport?”

How far is yet to be determined, but Straschnitzki has new dreams.

“I continue to work on it. Hopefully I’ll win a medal one day,” he said.

Again it’s about mindset and knowing “there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, adding that is something coaches, teammates and family have helped instil in him for years.

“Determination is playing through the hard times,” he said, adding “when life gets tough” it’s time “to continue to work hard, to persevere.”