Hockey Player With Cerebral Palsy Makes Varsity Debut
His incredible game brought two rival teams together.
It's a moment that all high school athletes dream about: suiting up for their first varsity game. For the Lacey Lions hockey team manager, Eric Czaplinski, that moment was so much bigger than hockey.
Eric has Cerebral Palsy, which affects his movement, making ice skating a difficult task. He didn't let that stop him from learning to skate. He got his first taste of playing hockey with the Brick Stars Challenger Hockey Program, a hockey program for children and young adults with developmental disabilities.
From there, Eric went on to become a team manager for his high school varsity team in Lanoka Harbor, NJ, the Lacey Lions. It was in a game against their rival team, the Central Regional Eagles, that Eric did what no other physically disabled high school student had ever done in the school's history: start a varsity game.
Now, the story could certainly end there with Eric shattering barriers and achieving what may have seemed impossible. But Eric decided to give the crowd their money's worth and scored his first ever goal:
This night was beyond unbelievable for both teams. Thank you to @CRhockeycoach and everyone apart of this amazing g… https://t.co/VXzB17npVa— Lacey Ice Hockey (@Lacey Ice Hockey)1580789693.0
One goal was great. But he just...kept...scoring...
Eric Czaplinski with the hat trick!!! Nothing stopping this guy! Button it up bud, Eric’s coming! Thank you Central… https://t.co/1v6qSrGNVz— Bob Brewster (@Bob Brewster)1580785867.0
Eric ended the game with a hat trick (3 goals)! Both teams came together to celebrate his huge achievement.
Eric's story even reached the NHL, where he was honored at a New Jersey Devils game:
Congratulations to @LaceyIceHockey Team Manager, Eric Czaplinski who scored a hat trick last night in his first car… https://t.co/uBwAKsoaGA— New Jersey Devils (@New Jersey Devils)1580863210.0