Ryan Straschnitzki has made the 16-athlete shortlist for the Canada Sports Hall of Fame’s (CSHF) inaugural People’s Choice Award.
The award, new in 2019, is meant to recognize “future hall of famers who are a champion of their sport and a champion for their community,” according to CSHF’s website.
For the former Humboldt Broncos player, who was paralyzed from the chest down in an April 2018 bus collision with a semi-truck that killed 16 members of the junior A organization, it was an honour to be nominated.
“I was in shock,” Straschnitzki said. “I looked at the list of athletes and I couldn’t believe I was grouped with them. I’m very honoured and I’m excited to see the results.”
Other nominees include WPGA golfer Brooke Henderson, professional soccer goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, Olympic snowboarder Mark McMorris and Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse.
The four finalists, to be revealed Oct. 11, will attend CSHF’s 64th Induction Festival Oct. 23 in Toronto, where the winner will be announced.
Straschnitzki’s nomination, according to CSHF’s website, stemmed from his championing of para-sports, as well as for Wings For Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation.
It was shortly after the crash, while Straschnitzki was still lying in a hospital bed, that he said he intended to play for the Canadian national sledge hockey team.
Since returning to Airdrie after months of hospital stays and rehabilitation, he has honed his skills in the sport during twice-weekly on-ice training sessions in Okotoks.
“Every Monday and Wednesday, I’m out there, practicing with some of the Team Alberta and national team players,” he said. “It’s awesome – I have a good skills coach, and I think putting myself in situations where people are better than me has really upped my game and helped me get better.”
While the Broncos bus crash has put Straschnitzki in the limelight for the last year and a half, he said he’s embraced becoming a role model for young athletes.
“If I can inspire people to get out there and never give up, it’s awesome,” he said. “I’m not doing it for the spotlight or the cameras or anything. I’m just trying to be a regular person, and do what I do.
“If that inspires people, then so be it. I’m not really in it for the attention.”
CSHF isn’t the only sporting organization that has recognized Straschnitzki – he also signed a three-year agreement with Adidas to take part in the sportswear giant’s hockey commercials, campaigns and programs in Canada.
“They reached out to me on social media and wanted to discuss a partnership,” he said.
“I thought, ‘this is a deal that I can’t turn down.' They’ve helped me out with sledge hockey and training gear, and getting my name and message out there, which is awesome, so I can’t thank them enough.”