March 7: Day 4

Day four saw the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team return to the ice at Gangneung Hockey Center. With the Opening Ceremony just two days away, the excitement within the Village continues to grow.

Of the 17-players on the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, seven are competing in a Paralympic Winter Games for the first time. Having now been here three days, the first-time Paralympian are finding their focus return to the task at hand.

“Everything so far has been unbelievable from the minute we arrived in Korea,” said Billy Hanning (High Ridge, Mo.). “This is the first time I’m competing in a tournament where there are other athletes and other sports going on, so it’s been fun seeing all of that. I’m hoping we can find time to check out some of the other sports and cheer on other U.S. athletes.”

“Heading into this, you talk to some of the guys who’ve been to the Paralympics before, but being here is a whole other story,” added Ralph DeQuebec (San Pedro, Calif.). “It’s been a lot of fun these first few days just processing it all— the athletes, the venues, the set-up. But we keep reminding each other that at the end of the day we’re here for sled hockey and a chance to win gold.”

Admittedly, hockey wasn’t the first sport that California native Ralph DeQuebec was drawn to growing up. But after suffering an injury while serving in the U.S. Marines that resulted in becoming a double amputee, DeQuebec was introduced to sled hockey during rehabilitation.

“I remember being told about sled hockey and thinking it wouldn't be right for me,” said DeQuebec. “Gretzky and that momentum with the Kings was a little before my time — but I was all in on Kobe and the Lakers.”

After developing a desire to pursue the sport further, DeQuebec turned to Xbox.

“I didn’t even know what the rules were in hockey when I first started skating. So, I bought an Xbox and just started playing the NHL games until I got the hang of it. That probably helped more than watching on TV, because it doesn’t matter if it’s hockey, basketball, football, whatever, the announcers aren’t always describing every play or rule or whatever. Being able to play the video game really helped me process it.”