PROFILE — Alberta teen with limb difference is soaring in ringette

Published 2023-03-20 06:00

Teen said she hopes to inspire others with differences

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Callie Bizuk




Sherwood Park, Alberta

Claim to fame

Since she was four years old, Callie Bizuk has worked to become the best ringette player on the ice.

As the only player she knows of with a limb difference, she felt like she had to go the extra mile to prove herself.

“It was always like, ‘I am the same as this person, but I have to prove that I am better just so I can be the same,’” said Callie in an interview with CBC Kids News.

After 10 years of play, she’s known as one of the best goalies in her division.

That’s in part to a custom-made prosthetic glove made with the help of former ringette national team goalie Keely Brown.

Now, Callie wants to inspire other young athletes who may feel that their disabilities are a barrier.

“It’s kind of cool to know that I’m an inspiration for some people and that playing this sport is a possibility for others who feel like they’re different.” — Callie Bizuk, 14

Falling in love with ringette

When Callie was four years old, she saw her older sister play ringette for the first time.

It’s a non-contact sport played on ice, similar to hockey, where players manoeuvre a ring with straight sticks to score goals.

That’s when Callie — who was born without her right hand just below her elbow — knew she wanted to be a part of the sport, too.

Callie Bizuk has been playing ringette since she was four years old and is now one of the top-ranked athletes in her age division. (Image submitted by Kim Bizuk)

Still, it was challenging for the Bizuk family to figure out how Callie could get involved.

“We knew you could play hockey as an amputee from visiting War Amps conferences,” said Kim Bizuk, who is Callie’s mom.

“But we didn’t know of any ringette players with a limb difference.”

The family found a medical professional who makes artificial limbs for people with disabilities, called a prosthetist, to create a prosthetic limb for Callie.

Although prosthetics have allowed Callie to play, she’s also had to troubleshoot through years of problems on the ice, including her prosthetic detaching. (Image submitted by Kim Bizuk)

It involved making a cylinder with a ball inside that Callie could attach to her arm to hold her ringette stick.

Although it allowed her to play, it wasn’t perfect, and Callie often had to troubleshoot when things went wrong.

“Sometimes it would pop up and detach from the stick,” she said. “My coaches would be like, ‘Why are you off?’ And I’d be like, ‘because my arm detached.’”

Proving herself as a goalie

When Callie was nine, she decided she wanted to be a goalie, but ran into some barriers.

“Some coaches didn’t agree and wouldn’t put me in the net,” said Callie.

On top of that, Callie did not yet have the right prosthetic — for nearly two years, she played with a goalie glove taped to her arm.

All of that just made her work even harder.

Callie said her limb difference made her work even harder on the ice. (Image submitted by Kim Bizuk)

“It made me grow to be the person that I am today, to prove that I actually can do this,” she said.

At age 11, Callie made the top team for her division.

A new prosthetic

Many ringette goalies use a special glove called the Keely, which was created by ringette goalie legend Keely Brown.

After spending two years as a goalie, Callie began the process of getting a new prosthetic so she could also use the Keely.

Keely Brown herself came to Callie’s prosthetic appointment.

“She’s such a cool person,” said Callie. “She brought me two of her books and even signed my Keely.”

Keely Brown, right, said that the process of making a prosthetic for Callie was inspirational. (Image submitted by Kim Bizuk)

Callie said that using her new prosthetic for the first time “felt surreal.”

“I kept looking at my arm, almost not really believing that I’d saved the shot, because I never really saved shots like that,” she said.

One of Callie’s coaches, Neil Sande, said her new prosthetic has allowed her to reach new heights.

“Callie is one of the most determined athletes I have worked with in my years as a coach.”

What’s next?

Currently, Callie is ranked as the top goalie for her age in her association. 

She hopes to make Team Canada one day.

Callie said her opponents are sometimes shocked to discover she has a limb difference at the end of games when teams have to shake hands. (Image submitted by Kim Bizuk)

In early April, Callie will head to the Canadian ringette championships in Regina, Saskatchewan, to play as goalie for one of the teams she plays for.

She said she plans to continue to up her game and is glad to be a role model to others.

“It’s kind of cool to know that I’m an inspiration for some people and that playing this sport is a possibility for others who feel like they’re different.”

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