(L-R) Brody Roybal, Jordan Burroughs and Rico Roman at the 2019 Team USA Awards on Nov. 19, 2019 in Universal City, Calif.
Having broken into the U.S. national sled hockey team at age 15, Brody Roybal has spent a third of his young life with the program. The experience has shaped him as no other could.
“Sled hockey’s given me so many opportunities and helped me grow so much as a person outside of just the sport,” said Roybal, now 23. “I’ve (gotten) to see way more of the world than most people my age would be able to see, and I’ve experienced so much more.
“You learn to grow up fast when you’re a 15-year-old playing with guys who are late 20s, early 30s. They teach you a lot more than you’d probably learn in your high school classes.”
Roybal, who has become one of the team’s indispensable forwards as it prepares for the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, noted that he came into the program with the likes of Declan Farmer, Noah Grove and Jack Wallace, all teenagers at the time.
“We were just kids, like high school kids, starting out on the team,” Roybal said. “We’re all kind of men now, and it’s been cool to see everyone grow up. A good part of my life has (been) growing up on this team, and it’s been a fun ride so far and I’m excited for the future.”
What Roybal, a bilateral amputee born without femurs in both legs, learned from veteran players back then, he’s now eager to share with young players on the current U.S. team.
“Now, I get to pass on some of that knowledge and information that they gave me to the younger guys,” Roybal said. “It’s cool to have some younger guys now that I could kind of be a mentor for, like the guys were back when I first started on the team.”
The young guys would be wise to listen to what Roybal has to say. The Northlake, Illinois, native already has a pair of Paralympic gold medals and three world championships. He was MVP of the 2018 Paralympics and the 2021 world championships.
The entire team will be gathering Jan. 12 in Nashville for the residency program to prepare for the Beijing Games in March. A number of U.S. players, including Roybal, have already been living and training together in the “Music City.”
“There’s I think like six of us now down here from the national team and a good amount of developmental team guys, too,” Roybal said. “It just seemed like a good place to move — nice weather, they have a great sled program down here that’s been great to us helping us get ice time.