BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. forward Brody Roybal is one of the key players to watch as the 2015 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships get underway this week in Buffalo. He’s also the youngest member of the team.
At 16 years old, Roybal has already taken the U.S. team by storm. He’s second on the team in scoring and is scored the first goal of the game as the United States opened the tournament with a 6-1 victory over Russia.
Success at a young age can sometimes bring out a brash attitude in some. That’s not the case for Roybal.
“It feels good, but it’s really my linemates that have really done it all,” said Roybal, a native of Northlake, Illinois. “We click so good together as a line.”
Roybal plays alongside Declan Farmer and Kevin McKee for Team USA.
“Me and Kevin played together at home with the Blackhawks, and me and Declan have known each other for a long time,” Roybal said. “We’ve been playing together for a while. So I mean it just really came together this year with these guys, so it’s been super easy for our line for just (scoring) goals and make it happen.”
That line with Roybal, Farmer and McKee has been excellent for the United States as it heads into the tournament. It also might be the youngest trio in the tournament with Roybal being 16 and Farmer at 17 years old. McKee is a relative old man at 25. Being so young has given the United States some extra life both on and off the ice.
“It makes my job easy that’s for sure,” U.S. goalie Steve Cash said with a laugh. “It’s really great to see a player that young thrive this soon. It makes you wonder how the team is going to be four years from now. Having a player like Brody who pitches in on the offense, but also is a valuable asset off the ice and a great teammate, it speaks volumes to where this sport’s come from. …
“I think that just goes to show, it’s a testament to what people around the United States have done to grow the sport. Having the USOC and USA Hockey around, they’re really good for getting new players involved and grooming them into national level players.”
Roybal’s production on the ice has helped the United States almost immediately. In his first major tournament with the U.S. team, Roybal helped Team USA finish second at the 2013 World Sled Hockey Challenge. One year later, he scored two goals in five games in helping Team USA win the gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. And already this year, he’s helped Team USA finish first at the 2015 World Sled Hockey Challenge.
“It’s really just an honor to be selected and be able to play with these great guys that have so much experience,” Roybal said. “It’s really nice to have this many veterans to be able to learn new things every day when I get out on the ice.”
The experience of playing for the United States on a stage like the world championships is one thing, but Roybal has already come up big on the international stage this year when he spoke at the United Nations on April 15 as part of the UN’s International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
“It was amazing,” Roybal said. “It was really cool being able to speak in front of all the people that are that high up. It was really an honor to be able to do that and go and represent disabled athletes all around the world and tell the UN about my experiences playing disabled sports and how it changes my life and how it’s changed the lives of other disabled athletes and able-bodied athletes.”
Among those in attendance was Wilfried Lemke, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. With an esteemed audience listening intently, Roybal spoke about what playing sled hockey has done for him.
“My topic was to talk about how disabled sports changed my life and how it changed other lives, and it was really easy to talk about something that I know and is near and dear to my heart,” Roybal said.
“I’ve spoken a few times, probably five or six times, but this is the UN, so it’s all just the highest people up. I talked in front of maybe 50 people over there, and I’ve talked in front of 800 before. It wasn’t bad, but knowing how important the people are around you, that just kind of got to me a little bit.”
After going through that, playing in the world championships might be less stressful.