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Ty Ulmer: teen who lost leg to cancer determined to play goal

Ulmer, 17, had his right leg amputated in 2008 and learned to skate two years agoEveryone goes through part of each day taking some of her/his physical gifts for granted, but you might want to reevaluate that after learning of Ty Ulmer.

The now 17-year-old needed to have his right leg amputated just more than four years ago after being osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. The treatment and recovery has robbed Ulmer, the son of a U.S. Air Force veteran, of what would be called a normal adolescence, keeping him from finishing high school. Over the past few years, though, he has become a dedicated supporter of the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads, forging a close bond with with goalie Tyler Beskorowany, a Dallas Stars farmhand who is an Ontario Hockey League graduate. That has led to Ulmer learning to skate with a prosthetic right leg and he's bent on becoming a goalie.

From Shawn Reznik (@ShawnReznikTHW):

There are many people in similar situations as Ty Ulmer, who never get the opportunity he’s been given. He’s able to play the game that has brought him so much joy. He’s been given a second chance – of which he never takes for granted. He’s been supported by friends and family members unconditionally. He’s experienced things in 17 years of life that people wish they never experience at all. And still, he remains a humble kid from Meridian, Idaho.

“I decided to play [hockey] because I have a passion for the sport that not everyone has. I’d enjoy nothing more than to play in goal on any team – beer league or higher. You don’t have to pay me to play, I just love the game. I want to play because it’s something that not everyone can do, and I want to show that even the difficult things in life are worth the fight,” Ulmer stressed.

In terms of sport, his goal is quite simple: “to be able to play hockey, and teach others to play hockey (be it kids, teens, adults, or disabled).”

His message to the kid’s in the same position as he once was: “As cliché as it might sound, just don’t give up and keep your head up. You are lucky enough to have your life, whereas not everyone else is. Life is a gift that you have been given, a gift that isn’t returnable, it is yours to keep, so live it as best as you can, and keep your spirits up.” (The Hockey Writers)

As Ulmer writes, moving from childhood to early adulthood is frightening enough, particularly since he spent his formative years moving around often depending on where his father was deployed. Trying to play hockey, provided he can find the right equipment, is less scary. From the sounds of it, going in goal would finally be a chance to exert some control over his fate after having his condition deny him other youthful rites of passages such as learning to drive or attending high school.

Yet I, as an amputee, am wanting to play hockey. A sport that some people with both legs can’t even play. Why is this? 80% out of the sheer love for the sport, 10% because I strive on doing that which people declare impossible, or very difficult, and 10% because.. Well, I’ve wanted to do something that I could relate to some people to on a normal base of play. Sure, I can relate to other cancer survivors or amputees, but I’ve always found it hard to relate to someone of the ‘normal’ breed. I’ve never really been one for people my own age. 80% of my friends are above the age of 21and those whom are my age. Don’t share the same interests as me, I feel that hockey could change that. (Ice In His Veins, Jan. 1, 2013)

What will it take? It turns out an equipment manufacturer will be giving an Ulmer a knee pad that will allow him to stand up on skates. That is, mind you, just one piece of the puzzle for someone whose equipment needs are more exacting than even the most fussbudget NHL 'tender.

From Reznik:

The main reason he hasn’t been able to suit up in net is because he lacks a knee pad that will hold around his leg and give him enough protection from injuring himself, helping to balance out the height of his prosthetic versus his real leg. But good news is right around the corner.

Maltese Sports, a protective equipment company based out of Washington Township, NJ, is providing Ulmer with fully customized knee pads.

Owned by Phil Maltese, he took it upon himself and his company to personally help Ty when he needed it most.

“I am alerted to certain threads and posts and this was one of them. I thought his unique situation might result in some unique issues for him,” said Maltese. ”All serious knee pads employ plastic (hard parts). They may protect from puck, but cause their own issue, like a sore from rubbing. Our gel product is so “hard part”-free that he should have something like that. Since we customize protective equipment, making one pad for Ty’s leg was a non-issue.”

Now it is only a matter of getting the right leg pads that fit properly. When that day comes, Ty will be waiting in the locker room, smile across his face, ready to test out his new equipment on a fresh sheet of frozen ice.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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