Nfld. & Labrador

This 11-year-old can now play minor hockey thanks to an engineer's keen eye for design

Cerebral palsy meant that Carter Burton could not wear a hockey glove on his left hand — that is, until now.

Carter Burton now has a custom-made glove so he can join his friends on the ice

Carter Burton, 11, is now able to play minor hockey thanks to a creative engineer who designed a hockey glove specifically for his left hand. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Carter Burton of King's Point, N.L., is fulfilling his dream of playing minor hockey, thanks to an engineer who custom-designed a glove for the 11-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.

Until now, Burton has been a fan, not a player, of the game he loves so much. He follows the Montreal Canadiens, and has collected hockey cards, a jersey and poster of his favourite player, goaltender Carey Price.

"He's one of the best. He puts on a show," Burton told CBC News from the bench inside Springdale Stadium.

During the conversation, Burton was doing something he had dreamed of: suiting up for hockey camp. 

The road to minor hockey and playing Canada's game with friends has had its challenges for Burton. Burton's form of cerebral palsy affects his left hand, meaning he physically cannot put his fingers into the separate dividers of a regular hockey glove. 

Despite being on skates since he was three, the aspiring goal-scorer had never played organized puck outside of ball hockey. 

Burton picked up an assist from Leonard Lye, a retired Memorial University of Newfoundland engineering professor, who created a custom glove just so Burton's dreams could become reality.  

Burton suited up for his first day at hockey camp a week ago. His dreams of playing minor hockey have been fulfilled thanks to Leonard Lye, an engineer in St. John's. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"Basically what I had to do was find a pair of hockey gloves that fit him — size 11 junior glove — which took a while because at the time all the stores were closed," said Lye, while demonstrating the process that went into his custom-made glove. 

"Finally we found a pair of the right size, and then [had to] figure out how to convert five fingers into a mitt."

'Beyond grateful'

A professor emeritus at MUN, Lye is also a volunteer with the Tetra Society in St. John's — a group of engineers across Canada and the United States who design and custom-make assistive living devices for people with disabilities.

All in all, the work on the glove project took Lye about two weeks. Work with the Tetra Society is a hobby as well as an opportunity to collaborate and be creative, he said.  

WATCH | See Carter Burton play hockey for the first time, as he puts on a glove that engineer Leonard Lye designed: 

Custom-designed hockey glove changes everything for this N.L. boy

CBC News Newfoundland

19 days ago
4:05
Carter Burton got a hand from an engineer he's never met in order to play hockey for the first time 4:05

But to Burton, and his mother Charlene Burton, the gift means so much more. Neither has met Lye in person. 

"It means a lot. It gives him a chance to be like everyone else, all of his friends, and get on the ice and enjoy the game," Charlene Burton said. 

"[We're] so grateful. Beyond grateful."

As her son takes to the ice for his first-ever practice, Burton said there are no worries on her end. However, she added, an injury like a broken bone would be a setback, especially on his left side. 

She said Carter's disability is becoming easier as he gets older, but new things require a lot of practice. 

For Burton? Fearless. No butterflies, no nerves and simple gratitude to a man he has never met, who helped a dream come true. 

Lye is the man behind Burton's custom hockey glove. (CBC)

"Thank you a lot. Now I got the opportunity to play hockey because of you," Burton said, expressing his thanks to Lye. 

"I'm learning lots of new stuff because of him, and I just love hockey."

Lye was shown a recording of the video message when CBC News spoke with him in St. John's. Emotions filled his eyes.

"I've not met him before, so to see his face and to see him really, really, really grateful — I think that was just one of the reasons why we do these kind of things," Lye said.

"I mean, it's to make somebody's life a lot better so that they can do what they want to do."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Ramraajh Sharvendiran and Colleen Connors

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