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The Heroes of 2020
Not the only veteran member to skip camp due to COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions
He’s not among the group of players currently gathered in Calgary for the national para hockey team’s training camp, but Liam Hickey expects to be representing Canada again at the world championship later this year and at the 2022 Beijing Paralympics, as well.
The national para team winds up its 11-day camp Tuesday at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.
Fourteen players are in camp. Another 13, who like Hickey are mostly veterans from previous squads, were invited but opted not to attend because of COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions.
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Hockey Canada established a bubble environment within the rink and the team’s hotel, which is closed to the public.
“I don’t think there were any worries once (players) got to Calgary,” Hickey said.
It was the coming back that was the problem.
“I think they know exactly what they’re getting from me and that kind of gave me some comfort.” — Liam Hickey
Hickey lives in St. John’s. and quarantining upon his arrival back from Alberta would have meant 14 days in his parents’ basement.
“That’s obviously not very enjoyable,” he said. “But anyone who decided to skip the camp, their decision – mine included – was based entirely on travel concerns.”
Hickey has been a stalwart on the Canadian blueline for half a decade, and coach Ken Babey knows exactly what he’s getting in the veteran.
He was part of Canada’s silver medal-winning squad at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics, and gold- and silver-medal Canadian teams at the 2017 and 2019 world championships.
“I think they know exactly what they’re getting from me,” said Hickey, “and that kind of gave me some comfort.”
“Hockey Canada made it very clear they were not judging anyone who opted out of the camp.”
Throughout the 2020-21 season, the national para team will prepare for the 2021 world championship in the Czech Republic. The worlds are scheduled for May, but depending on what happens with the pandemic, that date could be pushed back, perhaps even to next October.
The Beijing Paralympics are March 4-13. 2022.
The 2020 Tokyo summer Paralympics were postponed to Aug. 24-Sept.5 of this year. Hickey has competed in the Summer Paralympics, in wheelchair basketball in his Paralympic debut in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).
However, he won’t be trying to be a two-sport Olympian in the next couple of years.
“It’s very physically and mentally demanding,” he said.