By Carl Legg
When Christian Storms is not at Canisius, he can usually be found at an ice rink. His abilities on the ice were good enough to land him on the U.S. National Development Team. If he continues playing at this pace, his dedication can lead to him playing for a gold medal one day. There are many things that make Storms a unique hockey player; most notably is that he has to play in a sled. Instead of being ashamed about his disability, Storms has found a way to thrive with it.
Complications from birth led to a series of surgeries that resulted in him living with serious complications. He has multiple congenital abnormalities that are similar to Spina Bifida. What that means is that Storms has no movement below his left knee, a restructured hip, and scoliosis in his spine . His limp may be the first thing people notice when meeting him, but he admirably embraces his condition. The things that people will remember about meeting Storms are his sense of humor, upbeat personality, and dedication to sports. He’s been playing sled hockey for a dozen years, becoming a better athlete than most can hope for.
The first thing people need to know about sled hockey is what his coach, Dan Murray, attested: it is harder than it looks. The sport comes down to a lot of upper body strength. The players move by pushing off of the spikes on the end of the same sticks that they shoot with. It takes copious work to build up the muscle needed to be a successful player.
When watching Storms on the ice, it is clear he has put in that work. He is always one of the fastest skaters on the ice, and each push of the sticks looks effortless. “I try to get to the gym three times a week. Sometimes I have to work out at my dorm if I can’t find the time to get to the gym,” Storms said. His strength can be seen in the weight room, too; he can do 50 pull-ups in one set. His father, Robert Storms, spoke highly of his upper body strength. “He has put in so much hard work to get better and graduate to the next level,” said Mr. Storms, “and it all comes down to speed. He puts a lot of work into his strength and endurance because of that speed.” It is that commitment and work ethic that allows Chris to play at the highest level of sled hockey.
He plays on the Buffalo Sled Hockey Senior team. The team is not sponsored by the Sabres, but is allowed to use their logo and receive a generous donation from them each year. They do not take this support for granted, as they are one of the better teams in the United States. Those close to the team are nervously excited about their chances at nationals this year. “It’s the big talk, and the good thing is we’re really excited about the Buffalo team,” Mr. Storms said. “They’re really competitive as a team. They got second place in Nashville so we think that they can win it.”
The nationals of sled hockey are part of a large disability festival, which will be in San Jose, California in April this season. Every sled hockey team is allowed to participate, and they are expecting over 90 teams this year. There are also other forms of hockey that are part of the festival, which include blind hockey, deaf hockey, and standing amputee hockey. The entire experience is heartwarming as it gives everyone a chance to rise above his or her limitations in life. “It makes me feel great and you don’t know what life has in store for those born with disabilities. It means a lot watching these kids getting strong and grow and become great athletes,” Mr. Storms said.
The Storms have been a long time part of this community, forming a great deal of friendships along the way. Sled hockey is not a local sport and involves frequent travel. As tiring and expensive as it can all be, it has allowed them to form close relationships all over the country. “What we’re doing is seeing the same people all over the country who kinda gather. And everyone’s supportive, you see Christian’s buddies from Cleveland and Boston that we enjoy watching play,” Mr. Storms said.
Getting there is less fun for him, though. The constant travel can be tiring and costly for the Storms family, but as tough as it can be, it does bring the family closer. “Our ultimate goal is the Olympics. I’d welcome that trip,” Mr. Storms added. While they expect nothing, the level of competition Storms is playing at does lead to the historic stage of the Paralympics. He has certainly put in the time and work to earn a spot on the historic stage.
Storms has big plans for his break and sled hockey. He will be traveling to Canada the day after finals for a pair of games, and then has a camp for the U.S. National Development Team two days after Christmas. If you would like to see Storms’ talent, he will be playing in the Harborcenter Cup in Buffalo from February 3 – 5. He is not your average athlete, but is certainly one that Canisius can be proud of.