The last line of defense for the Canadian women’s ice sledge hockey team, Jessie Gregory’s story is one built on inspiration. From participating in the Ontario Para Sport Games to the inaugural IPC Women’s Ice Sledge Hockey Tournament, Gregory is establishing herself as one of the sport’s premier goaltenders.
After being involved in a hit-and-run accident on November 30, 2008, Gregory’s life changed forever. Employed by a security company, she responded to an alarm at a high school when she was hit by a car. Suffering a spinal cord injury with permanent damage to her legs, it sidelined her 14-year long stand-up hockey career, which also involved participation as a referee.
Despite the ramifications, Gregory refused to wallow in self-pity. Although she had to re-learn to walk on four separate occasions, her courage was nothing short of amazing. While it was three difficult years of recovery that no person should ever have to endure, Gregory was determined to turn a tragic negative into an inspiring and empowering positive.
Following the path to ice sledge hockey it rekindled her love of the rink. Believing that she may never be able to compete in sports again, ice sledge hockey changed her life. From earning a tryout for the national team in November 2011 to earning the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
The first stop in her remarkable athletic career involved competing for the Brant County Crushers. Although the team is predominantly male, Gregory helped to shatter barriers, proving that women deserved the chance to participate. That chance would prove to become an enriching part of Gregory’s life, as she reflects on what she enjoys about competing for the club,
“The thing I enjoy most about playing for the Crushers is getting to play with other people with disabilities and also that we get to play with family and friends to help grow the sport.”
Of note, hockey is a family affair for Gregory. The game proved to be a chance to bond with her niece. Coincidentally, while accompanying her niece to the rink for one of her games in 2011, which was when Gregory discovered ice sledge hockey. Gregory acknowledges that her niece, who still plays the game, remains an influence,
“Yes, my niece was, and still is a positive influence for me. She also plays hockey, she plays stand up hockey for the Brantford girls Ice Cats minor hockey.”
Throughout her sojourn in the sport, Gregory’s efforts culminated with an opportunity to guard the crease for the Canadian national ice sledge hockey team. Just like the Canadian goaltenders who compete in stand-up hockey, such as Shannon Szabados and Genevieve Lacasse, Gregory has an immense feeling of pride when donning the Maple Leaf. Wearing the Canadian jersey for the first time is one that Gregory shall never forget,
”It felt amazing playing for Canada for the first time, it was a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to play hockey at a national level. Was so nice to get to play high level hockey again and with other amazing athletes with many different disabilities.”
While Gregory is a proud member of the Canadian roster competing at the inaugural 2014 IPC Women’s Ice Sledge Hockey Cup, she remembers the chance to compete for Canada in 2012. Although the 2012 event was not sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee, it was a remarkable event. Taking into account that all players and teams funded their own way to the trip, it truly represented the competitive spirit and determination of these remarkable individuals,
For me my favorite moment so far in sledge hockey would have to be getting to play in the first ever all women’s sledge hockey tournament in 2012 in New Jersey with Canada, we played against USA and Europe. And also winning the championships with Brant county crushers my home team during my first season and first year playing sledge hockey.
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated
Images obtained from: http://jessiegregory84.wix.com/jessiegregory