Nfld. & Labrador

'We've got our alarms set': Liam Hickey's family ready for Team Canada to open Paralympic Games

Team Canada's quest for para-hockey gold starts Saturday against the United States at the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Canada opens the action against the United States at 1:35 a.m. NT Saturday

Newfoundland and Labrador's Liam Hickey and Team Canada start their quest for para hockey gold at the 2022 Paralympic Games on Saturday. (Twitter/@HockeyCanada)

Team Canada's quest for para hockey gold at the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing starts Saturday against the United States, with a Newfoundlander leading the charge.

But the nine-day event is much different from the last time it was held, with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing a wrench into the works. Families aren't making the trip to show support in person but will stick to phone calls and social media. The family of Newfoundland and Labrador's Liam Hickey will be cheering him on from home.

"He knows that, obviously, he's got all the support from here at home. He definitely feels it," Liam's dad, Todd Hickey, told CBC News this week. 

"His immediate family, his extended family and pretty much the entire province, I think, is behind him. So he definitely feels that support even though he's a long ways away."

The club is a mix of seven newcomers hoping to snag their first Paralympic medals and 10 returning veterans.

Liam Hickey was part of the 2018 squad that brought home silver in Pyeongchang, a defeat at the hands of the U.S. in a 2-1 overtime battle. This year he's stepping into a leadership role after being named an alternate captain. 

Settling in

Team Canada team left for China a week ago to get settled into the athlete's village, but many players have been away from home since January as the team decided to bubble-up for practices in Calgary to avoid potential challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Todd Hickey says this year will be an unusual experience for the family.

"We've been fortunate enough to travel to other Paralympics that Liam has participated in," he said. "It's different being here as opposed to travelling to the Games and seeing it first-hand … but I think everyone is eager to see him get out there and do his thing on the ice for Canada."

This year's Paralympics is Hickey's second with Team Canada in para hockey. He also representing Canada in wheelchair basketball at the 2016 Games in Rio. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

The distance and the time difference haven't mattered much to the Hickey family. Todd Hickey said he has spoken with Liam nearly every day since his arrival in China.

He said Liam's first impressions were of how kind the staff and volunteers of the event have been and their eagerness to get photographs with the team. 

The men's tournament starts Friday and runs until March 12. 

Canada is slotted in Group A alongside the U.S., China and South Korea. The top two teams from the group in round-robin play will automatically move into the semifinals. The bottom two countries play in the quarter-finals.

Canada opens the action against the United States at 1:35 a.m. NT Saturday, and the Hickey family will be watching it live.

"We've got our alarms set," Todd Hickey said. "We'll have lots of late nights and lots of early mornings."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Moore

Journalist

Mike Moore is a journalist who works with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's. He can be reached by email at mike.moore@cbc.ca.

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