It has been more than 14 years since Christina Picton decided to give para
hockey a try after she heard about the sport from her wheelchair softball
teammates. Picton, who lost part of her right leg to amputation, can still
vividly recall the sensation she felt her first time.
“I remember it being an incredibly freeing experience for me to be on the
ice playing the game.”
The decision made by the Fonthill, Ont., product to follow her passion has
led to her making history as a member of Canada’s National Para Hockey
Development Team for a three-game against the United States at the Défi
sportif AlterGo in Montreal this weekend.
Her successful audition for a roster spot makes her one of the first two
women, alongside Raphaëlle Tousignant, to be part of Hockey Canada’s para
Picton says the accomplishment represents years of “hard work and
determination” paying off.
“It is really exciting to have an opportunity like this to showcase what I
am capable of, and what women are capable of,” she says.
Tousignant, a native of Terrebonne, Que., is the other
gender-barrier-breaking pioneer. As a ringette player in her younger days,
it was a natural next step for her to gravitate towards para hockey
following the amputation of her right leg in 2012 due to bone cancer.
“It was very important for me to find another sport to play on the ice,”
Tousignant and her family watched a little bit of hockey action, and it
didn’t take too long for her to become inspired to play the game herself.
Picton and Tousignant met three years ago when the latter joined Canada’s
women’s national team. Picton had already been captain of the team for
multiple seasons – including at the inaugural IPC Sledge Hockey Women’s
International Cup in Brampton, Ont., back in 2014.
The 26-year-old veteran and 16-year-old youngster have become close
friends, and sometimes linemates, over the past several years.
Having Tousignant as a teammate with Canada’s National Para Hockey
Development Team has made the history-making experience even more special
“I have watched her grow and develop and become such a strong, fierce
player,” she says. “I am just so proud of her and excited to be here
sharing this experience with her.”
Tousignant is thrilled to share the ice in Montreal with Picton, a mentor
who has taught her valuable lessons.
“[She’s taught me] to not stop myself because I am young or because I’m a
woman. Just believe in your dreams and do what you want.”
Tousignant hopes to impart that same message through her play at the Défi
sportif AlterGo, and thus inspire younger girls to pursue their dreams.
“They will see that I opened doors for them,” she says. “They are not going
to be stopped by any restrictions. They will play their sport as best as
they can and see where they’re going to go.”
Tousignant has lived up to her message of playing as hard as possible, and
that passion for vigorously working at improving her craft has impressed
Brandon Reid, the head coach of Canada’s National Para Hockey Development
“The will and the fight in her are huge,” Reid says. “She showed she wants
to be part of this team from day one. Female or male, she was one of the
players who competed on every puck. Her details can get better, and they
will get better because she has the right character.”
Picton, nicknamed ‘The Mouse’ by her coaches as an ode to her talkative
nature, has been entrusted with a leadership role with Team Canada.
“She is always a very vocal player and strong leader on and off the ice,”
Reid says. “She does the right thing every day – and that’s what you want
from a player.”