2021 22  n p t  s i b i  henry

Paving a path

Tyrone Henry may be one of the best para hockey defencemen in the country, but his most profound impact on the game can be traced to his volunteer work in Ottawa

Lee Boyadjian
January 20, 2022

Nathan Sparks has always loved the game and through para hockey, has always been able to play. Even so, the 15-year-old has felt “singled out” at times, forced to play the game differently because he was born with arthrogryposis (causing issues with his joints and muscle weakness).

But in those moments, Sparks can turn to his role model (and idol), National Para Hockey Team defenceman Tyrone Henry.

“He kind of opened my eyes to the ability that I have and who I am, to play sports and be a person instead of just hiding away because I'm not like everyone else,” Sparks says.

Henry has been volunteering with Sledge Hockey of Eastern Ontario (SHEO) for about a decade and currently sits on the board of directors as the intermediate division program coordinator. But it’s his on-ice involvement that has had the most profound impact with the players in the organization.

“He’s had such an impact on me as a person in and out of [para] hockey,” Sparks says. “If I never met him, I wouldn’t be [playing para hockey still] and my ability to skate and socialize wouldn’t have evolved without him.”

Sparks’ evolution in the game is of particular pride to Henry. The pair met when the Ottawa native first joined SHEO, though Henry’s influence at that point was mostly just encouraging four-year-old Sparks to stay focused and on the ice. Since then, though, Henry has been dropping tips and tricks for the up-and-coming forward, who in turn takes every piece of advice he can.

“Seeing his progression, to where he is now, the confidence he has in himself and how that’s impacted his life and how he wants to reach the next level all the time, it’s heartwarming to see,” Henry says. “That’s the impact we want to have as national [team] players.

“I want to see more kids in Ottawa take up that mantle down the road because it was passed to me and I want to pass it to the next generation,” Henry says.

Henry isn’t just passing the baton to the next generation though, he is building a path for others from eastern Ontario to follow, as Sparks says Henry is a role model for all the young players in the club.

“It’s really important to have a role model that you can look up to and learn from, especially at a younger age when you’re starting a sport you’re not even sure you’ll actually be able to play,” Spark explains. “They can help you learn, socialize and understand the sport and understand yourself and what you can actually do.”

What Sparks can do is already quite a bit. He was named to Team Ontario this season, though training and competition has been limited due to COVID-19-related restrictions. He hasn’t even been able to get a jersey yet. Though it is a different jersey he hopes to see Henry in very soon.

“I’m really happy for him and honestly it’s also me envisioning myself in the same position when I’m older,” Spark says. “Hopefully I can make it to that level.

“If he can do it, I’m going to try my best to make it there as well.”

And that is exactly what Henry hopes his presence with SHEO is inspiring.

“It's why we do it. At the end of the day, we like to push kids to find their dreams and achieve their dreams.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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