AP PHOTOS: Teen shines on Paralympic hockey team

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 24, 2014 at 9:12 am •  Published: February 24, 2014
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NORTHLAKE, Ill. (AP) — Brody Roybal was born with no legs. But that didn't stop him from trying any number of sports at an early age.

His mom, Michelle Roybal, remembers thinking he looked like the Peanuts character Pigpen when he'd hit a baseball and kick up dust when using his arms to swing and scoot his upper torso down the baseline.

But baseball wasn't his sport. As soon as he tried sled hockey, at age 7, he found his passion.

"That was it," says Roybal, who's now 15 and a sophomore in high school in suburban Chicago. "It's all I wanted to do."

Roybal joined a youth sled hockey team in the Chicago area known as the Hornets. The participants, who can't use traditional skates because of varying disabilities, sit in sleds and use two shorter sticks to propel them around the ice and to control the puck.

By age 12, Roybal was so good that he started playing with an adult team — a big challenge for a kid, since the adult game is so much more physical.

But J.J. O'Connor, co-founder and general manager of the Hornets, says his coaches saw Roybal's potential early on.

"I'm telling you right now," one coach told O'Connor, "this kid has the potential to be the best that's ever played the game."

Now Roybal is the youngest U.S. Paralympic athlete — a member of the national sled hockey team headed to Sochi, Russia, to defend its gold medal from the 2010 games. The team is the subject of a PBS documentary called "Ice Warriors" that begins airing Monday.

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