The clatter of hockey sticks echoed through the frosty air of the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge on Friday, Dec. 6. Players shot across the ice, furiously pursuing the puck, colliding with each other in attempts to flip it toward their teammates.
Dashing back and forth across the ice wasn’t as easy as simply skating, however. The players, all participants in The Hartford Ski Spectacular weeklong event for adaptive snow sports, sat on sleds, propelling themselves forward by pushing along the ice with a shortened hockey stick in each hand. This version of sled hockey allows people with disabilities and amputations to get out on the ice and enjoy the game.
Among the people cheering in the stands on Friday was a young boy. He sat on the first bench, closest to the ice. At the end of the game, one of the players guided his sled over.
“Daddy!” the boy shouted. He bounced up and down, pointing out something on the phone in his hand while his father smiled.
The man in the sled was Marc Fucarile, a first-time participant in the Ski Spectacular and survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings.
In April of this year, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding hundreds. Fucarile was among the wounded and the last to leave the hospital. He lost his right leg above the knee, received damage to his left leg that doctors are still trying to repair, and suffered injury from burns and shrapnel.
Fucarile, along with his family, was invited by Disabled Sports USA to fly from Boston to Breckenridge free of cost and participate in the Ski Spectacular. Since arriving on Monday, Fucarile has been taking mono-ski lessons; his fiancée, Jen Regan, their 6-year-old son Gavin, and Regan’s sister have been doing ski lessons, too.
This is Fucarile’s first time visiting Colorado.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he said.
It’s been about eight or nine years since he last skied, a pastime that he gave up due to previous injuries.
“Skiing’s like a family event,” he said of what drew him to the Ski Spectacular, “so I wanted to show my son that I could ski, that I could do things, let him see other people that do other amazing things so he could learn from it, benefit from it. I would get to see if he liked it and get to see if his mother, my fiancée, liked it. They both liked it, enjoyed it; now it’s something that we can do as a family, together, when we get back.”
Friday’s sled hockey session was also the first time Fucarile had been out on the ice since the bombing. He played hockey in high school and has a love for the sport that he wants to pass on to Gavin.
“I started teaching my son how to skate, and then,” he paused, “this happened.”
Fucarile has dark hair cropped close to his head, dark eyes and a smile that spreads every time his son comes near. Gavin was shy answering questions about skiing, but completely unafraid to wiggle into his father’s lap at any opportunity, grinning and giggling. Fucarile’s Boston accent — he was born and raised in Stoneham — is instantly recognizable among the buzz of conversation after the sled hockey game. He moved slowly through the crowd of participants in his chair, stopping every few feet to chat. The game made him sweat, but his cheeks flushed from the activity and he appeared to be the good kind of tired, like any athlete after a game.
“It felt great. It was awesome,” he said after the game. “Have to get in shape though. It was a workout.”
Another benefit of Fucarile participating in the event has been meeting others with similar disabilities.
“Great people,” he said. “You get to talk to everybody, you know. You (talk about) disabilities, how to get through phantom pain, surgery pain, just complications, even teaching each other to use their prosthetics.”
Although Fucarile doesn’t yet know his plans for next winter, he said he certainly wouldn’t mind coming back to this event.
“I had a blast. Definitely would like to come back,” he said, depending on time and finances. “I definitely love it. I think it’s gorgeous. … These events are great. People that support these events, it means the world to us.”