Canada’s National Sledge Team forward Marc Dorion’s focus has always been on breaking boundaries, not on being wheelchair-bound.
It’s an attitude instilled in him by his family, including father Roch, who is still never far away to remind Marc that the word “can’t” shouldn’t be in his vocabulary.
Roch has been the National Sledge Team’s equipment manager since 2006-07, joining the full-time staff a couple of seasons after Marc, who was born with spina bifida, first strapped himself into a sled wearing a red and white jersey.
“Don’t limit yourself,” Roch said. “I think a lot of people do, especially people with disabilities, and not just the person with the disability, but the parents and family of that person.”
Marc is living proof of his father’s sage advice. Like many Canadian kids, he first took to the ice at the tender age of four, joining the Ottawa Lasers sledge hockey program. He hasn’t looked back since, quickly moving up the ranks to become a reliable Team Canada forward. Still just 24 years old, he has already garnered gold medals at both the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games and 2008 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship, to name just a couple of the young athlete’s accomplishments.
“We all remember … parents dressing us, and having to put a toque under our helmet, because the helmet was
too big,” Marc said. “It started off as a ‘for fun’ thing, to go out and be active and meet new
But like his father, who was once a Junior B goaltender, hockey quickly became Marc’s “passion.”
He credits Roch and his mother Connie, who this time around will be cheering from the family home in Bourget, Ont., with encouraging him to follow his dreams, despite any obstacles along the way. “My parents have followed me around as long as I remember.”
Before becoming an equipment manager, Roch said he was always around the rinks in the Ottawa area, “to do whatever needed to be done to get the house league going,” from logistics to coaching, and even refereeing.
“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Marc said with a belly laugh at the memory of his father officiating sledge. “Sometimes you can pull limbs off…”
“I lifted a young lad one day, and his artificial arm ended up coming off,” Roch continued. “They had a good laugh with that one.”
As much as Marc teases his father, he gets it right back from his teammates. After all, who else at the national level still has their dad in the dressing room to help with equipment?
“I don’t get preferential treatment,” Marc said. “If I’m not in line to get my sled fixed in time, guess what? I fall to the back of the line.”
But while their professional relationship is unique, and Marc’s developmental condition has posed its unique challenges, at the end of the day their bond is similar to that of any other Canadian father and son, who have spent countless hours in the rink to participate in the sport they both love.
“I always knew that I wanted to play hockey,” said Marc, who echoes both the hockey skills and wisdom his father has passed down to him. “It’s coming to realize that it’s not going to happen like you see everyone else do it, it’s just a matter of finding a different way. ”
For Marc, “there’s no greater feeling, than knowing that I’m representing my country.”
For Roch, there’s no greater feeling than seeing his son succeed.
“Hockey is no different from regular life – you teach them, you raise them, you show them the ropes and make them independent,” he said. “I’ve got to be one of the luckiest dad’s on earth.”