Manitoba·First Person

How passion for hockey helped a Manitoban with cerebral palsy confront society's reaction to him

Alex Lytwyn, who lives with cerebral palsy, says because of his physical disability, "people did not expect a lot from me." But he found the ability to overcome challenges and recognize true success — thanks to his passion for hockey.

Underestimated because of disability, Alex Lytwyn says his love for the game ignited his life

'All I had to do was get up in the morning and people were surprised,' says Alex Lytwyn, 36, who lives with cerebral palsy. But he says dedication and perseverance have led him to many accomplishments, including one of his proudest: becoming a hockey video co-ordinator. (Submitted by Alex Lytwyn)

This First Person column is the experience of Alex Lytwyn, who lives with cerebral palsy and is an ambassador for Manitoba Possible. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

Sitting in my power chair in front of the TV on a snowy Saturday night, cheering on my favourite team and watching my heroes put in so much effort into something they love, has taught me to love life.

The next morning I would be off to the rink to watch my two brothers play minor hockey.  Every stride they would take, their skate blades on the ice — they were the fire starter to my soul.

The thing is, I live with cerebral palsy. But it's not just the physical disability that restricts me. It's also society's reaction to me.

Because I have a fairly severe physical disability, people did not expect a lot from me. Growing up, I was just the guy in the chair who was funny and nothing more. 

But as I just sat back, not only were my muscles tightening up, but so was my life. 

I only had to put in a little bit of effort, to get nothing but positive feedback. As a result, I lost the spark for life.- Alex Lytwyn

As time went on, the more effort I put into a task, the more I was met with the same overzealous happy reaction. Whatever I accomplished (even the smallest of tasks, like going uptown) was amazing in people's eyes.

This was a nice feeling for me at the time. But over time, I did not realize how damaging that was to my well-being.

I only had to put in a little bit of effort, to get nothing but positive feedback. As a result, I lost the spark for life.

What was the point of trying? All I had to do was get up in the morning and people were surprised. I mean, even the simple fact that I was not in the modified class at school surprised everyone. So why try at all? 

It was at this point, where I basically gave up. The desire had drained from my mindset. Why put in the effort, when society has already crowned you?

This is where life went into a nosedive.

Everything I did was of very minimal effort. I did not see a purpose to hard work. I let my cerebral palsy own me.

'I knew I had more to give'

But one morning, while lying in bed feeling sorry for myself, my life was once again ignited. 

I had a Wayne Gretzky  poster on my wall. I would see it when I would go to sleep and it was the first thing I would see when waking up. The quote was "You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don't take."

Then, with a smile beaming from ear to ear, with all my might, I kicked off all my covers and decided to push on.

 From that day forward, I have felt unstoppable. 

I have 26 years of being involved in minor hockey and have watched countless hours of games. 

Yet my desire was not fulfilled. I knew I had more to give. Well, I'm here to tell you that dreams do come true. 

'Hockey has ... filled my life with the power of positivity,' says Lytwyn. (Submitted by Alex Lytwyn)

Through dedication, perseverance and most importantly, belief, I've become a lot of amazing things. A two-time college graduate, a business owner, an author and advocate.

But perhaps my proudest accomplishment is becoming a hockey video co-ordinator.

Have you ever heard of a hockey video co-ordinator that cannot play hockey? Like the rest of my life, this is certainly not ordinary.

It started when I decided to reach out to a local U18 AAA team.

I'm now the guy who attends games, watches game video, analyzes plays, talks to players and coaching staff about improving the team's play. 

I'm so thankful to the players and staff for believing in me.

The amount of pride this fills me with is beyond amazing. To be able to impart my hockey wisdom on these wonderful young athletes allows me to once again feel life's passion. 

Disabled or not, know that our soul has endless possibilities.- Alex Lytwyn

Respect is hard to come by in life. The fact that I have earned the respect of the players and coaching staff is tremendous. 

Is it easy? Heck no. There's an enormous amount of energy and effort that I put into every practice and every game.

I'm not telling you this to preach or brag. I'm just saying that disabled or not, know that our soul has endless possibilities. You just have to have the courage to unlock and believe in your potential. 

There's always a way. Even if it's not the most conventional way, it's possible to achieve your dreams, your way. 

I cannot skate or shoot a puck. This does not stop me from turning my disability hardships into the most positive of realities.

My passion for hockey has given me the ability to overcome any difficulty and recognize true success. 

Hockey has once again filled my life with the power of positivity. Never stop fighting and pushing, to achieve true happiness.

With passion, dedication and most importantly effort, the game of life is now tied up and I vow to win it in overtime. Till my last breath, my game will not be over.


Alex Lytwyn

Freelance contributor

Alex Lytwyn is a Manitoba business owner and hockey video co-ordinator who lives with cerebral palsy. He is also an ambassador with Manitoba Possible, which provides programs and services for persons with disabilities in the province.