SLEDGE HOCKEY CANADA JAPAN 20121206

Kevin Rempel celebrates his second period goal against Japan during semi-final World Sledge Hockey Challenge action in Calgary on Dec. 6, 2012. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Kevin Rempel has one of the most inspirational and compelling stories on the Canadian sledge hockey team. He always wanted to become a motocross professional. On July 1, 2006, at age 23, he achieved that dream. Two weeks later, he crashed his dirt bike during a freestyle jump; his injuries resulted in incomplete paraplegia. He was told by his doctors that he would never walk again, but a year later he proved them wrong.

Rempel wasn’t unfamiliar with paraplegia before his accident. In 2002 his father, Gerald Rempel, had an accident while hunting and broke his back. He struggled to live with his impairment and took his own life as a result in 2007, but Rempel has chosen to follow a different path to cope with his disability.

Sports, especially sledge hockey, have played a large role in that recovery. He started playing in 2008 with the Niagara Thunderblades and led the team in scoring for the 2008-09 season. He joined the national team after the 2010 Paralympic Games. Now he is a 2013 world champion and on track to play for Canada at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi.

Since his accident he has begun motivational speaking, appearing at schools and convention centres to tell his story. He has a passion for public speaking, and once he retires from competition he plans to write a book about his experiences on and off the ice. 

Rempel, 31, was born in St. Catharines, Ont., and now lives in Dundas, Ont.

Courtesy of the Canadian Paralympic Committee