Can’t Keep A Hockey Kid Down: Boy With Cerebral Palsy Lives His Dream to Play Hockey With Support Of His Family, Community, and Some Inspiration From the Capitals

Photos: Meghann Roper

What makes hockey such a unique and special sport is that it can be played by everyone and it’s family atmosphere makes it appealing to people all over the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world. Every now and again a story comes along that shows that special side of the sport, and Ryan Roper’s story embodies that side of the best sport on earth to a tee.

Ryan Roper is a nine-year hockey brother (not to mention Washington Capitals and Braden Holtby fan) who has supported his older sister Katie, a goalie in the Delaware Stars Youth Hockey Program, for the past six years, attending games and practices. While Ryan was a hockey fanatic, he was unable to play due to living with mild cerebral palsy, a condition which he developed at a  very young age. Because his cerebral palsy, his ability to skate along with other typical physical abilities are limited. However all that changed one day last spring.

16938934_10154235526926128_6532087020123496809_nWhile watching his sister play as he had done for years, a coach from the Delaware Stars program took note of young Ryan’s insatiable love for the game. Ryan’s mother Meghann (who recently retired from a 20-year career serving in the United States military) and father Justin (an active member of the United States Air Force) explained that while they had taken Ryan to a United Heroes League skate with the Capitals a few years prior, Ryan’s palsy made his legs too weak to support him on the ice. Then-Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt took it upon himself to be Ryan’s legs, introducing him to other members of the Capitals.

The coach who had inquired about Ryan, Chad Everett, suggested the idea of constructing a supportive device that would allow Ryan the opportunity to learn how to skate and play hockey (per Meghann, Ryan was lucky to have learned how to walk. However, after the family had not heard anything from Everett through the next season, they fell under the impression that the well-meaning coach had forgotten about his idea. This spring proved to be quite the opposite: distraught by the thought of such a big hockey fan not being able to realize his dreams of skating and playing, Coach Everett constructed a unique supportive device that Ryan’s family absolutely loved and upon notifying the Delaware State Fair Centre Ice Rink management team, the rink was eager for young Ryan to test it out. A couple of coaches invited Ryan to try his new support system (which can be seen in the video below) and it went by without a hitch, with Ryan scoring a goal on his second shift on the ice:

This video (all of these videos were shared courtesy of Ryan’s mom Meghann Roper) details Ryan’s story and background leading up to his dream come true:

Thanks to the support of his community through equipment donations, time commitment, and the use of the ice rink to make Ryan’s dream of lacing up the skates and playing hockey come true. Ryan’s family reports that he is eager to lace up the skates and hopefully, will be joining his big sister when the time comes. Ryan Roper’s story is one that literal dreams are made of, all made possible by a community’s desire to make one of their own’s dreams come true, a loving family support system, some inspiration from a few members of the Washington Capitals, and above all, a boy’s love and passion for the best sport on earth that drove him to overcome even the most daunting of limitations to live a dream.

By Michael Fleetwood

Note from the author: NoVa Caps would like to give special thanks to Ryan Roper’s mother Meghann and the rest of his family for sharing his story and allowing us to share it with all of you. It’s these kinds of stories that truly warm our hearts not only as hockey fans, but as people. We all will be cheering Ryan on as he continues to live and work on his dream!

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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