“A different ability”: Tyvon Disbrowe’s hockey journey
Tyvon Disbrowe spent the weekend competing in the Manito Ahbee Cup, a hockey tournament part of the larger Manito Ahbee festival in Winnipeg. Next weekend, he’s off to a ball hockey tournament. And the next weekend is booked, too.
The 17-year-old has been on the ice most of his life. He grew up in Berens River First Nation, a community on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, a 370 km drive from Winnipeg. His mother Sara-Jo Disbrowe remembers him as a young boy skating on the pond near their home as soon as it froze, waiting impatiently for the local rink to open in the winter.
“He’s played lots of different sports,” Sara-Jo said.”[Hockey is] the one that stuck.”
Tyvon’s passion for the sport came from family.
“I grew up around hockey, with all my cousins and uncles,” he said.
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“He’s always included with his cousins, and that’s what makes it really great,” Sara-Jo said. “They all want to make him part of the team, and they know he can do just as good as they can.”
Tyvon was born with a limb difference on his right arm. It ends just after his elbow. He learned how to hold a hockey stick at age six without any additional equipment. Though he has an attachment for his arm, he prefers not to use it for hockey.
“[It’s] pretty much just normal now,” he said. “But it was a challenge when I first started.”
Throughout his life, Tyvon’s parents have encouraged him to keep trying when things were difficult.
“He doesn’t use the word ‘I give up’ or “I quit,’” Sara-Jo said. “That’s one of the things we love best about him, is his attitude for always wanting to try new things.”
Berens River only offers up to grade 9, so Tyvon and his family came to Winnipeg to pursue his education. There, he got to play hockey more often — in gym class at high school, and with the Selkirk Fishermen. He and his cousins have also worked to enter ice and ball hockey tournaments, fundraising to cover the registration fees.
The Disbrowes call themselves a “hockey family.” A poster-sized photo hangs in their living room, showing Tyvon and his two cousins stand looking out at a rink, their last names emblazoned on the backs of their hockey jerseys.
It’s playing with family that Tyvon loves most.
“Just playing with my cousins,” he said. “That’s probably the best memory.”
His next move, he says, is trying out for a AA team. He also hopes to play for his high school’s team in the fall.
“Don’t think of it as a disability, think of it as a different ability,” he said. “That’s what my mom and dad would always tell me when I would try to give up on things.”
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