Canadian Para ice hockey has new kid in town in Matteo Pellizzari

Canadian Paralympic Committee

November 25, 2022

Fifteen-year-old already one to watch


RICHMOND, B.C. – Matteo Pellizzari fires wrist shots off the hockey boards that boom across the Richmond Olympic Oval where the Paralympic Foundation of Canada’s ParaTough Cup was held last month.

After helping the event’s participants learn the fundamentals of Para ice hockey, Pellizzari is capitalizing on a few moments alone to get some extra practice in, however brief.

Once unstrapped from the sled, he slips on his two prosthetic legs and the wide-framed 15-year-old emerges, standing six-feet tall.

He then walks across to the other end of the Oval to participate in a fireside chat, a discussion panel comprised of Para athletes sharing their experiences in Para sport.

Despite his youth, Pellizzari easily trades his opinions and stories with Paralympic legends Josh Dueck, Richard Peter, and Marni Abbott-Peter.

It’s a whirlwind that doesn’t faze Pellizzari, the son of a corrections officer and a nurse.

In September Pellizzari made the cut as a member of Canada’s national Para ice hockey team. This fall, he attended a development camp in Paradise, N.L. and he will compete for Canada at next week’s Para Hockey Cup in Bridgewater, N.S., starting November 27.

“I’m committed to working out and developing my hockey skills so I can play at the highest level in the world,” said Pellizzari, whose father is of Italian descent and his mother of British background.

“I’m excited for all the development opportunities that are coming up. It’s really so incredible I’ve reached this level. I’m looking forward to more games and tournaments to continue to develop.”

Pellizzari, from Vancouver, was born with bilateral fibular hemimelia, which is the absence of the fibula bone in the lower legs. Due to this, his feet were amputated when he was a year old. He was fitted with prosthetics and started walking at one and a half.

He has participated in many sports and activities, including swimming, volleyball, golf, track and field, downhill and cross-country skiing, martial arts, and rock climbing.

Different types of prosthetics are needed to enjoy these activities, such as running legs, which have more bounce and energy return, and swim legs, which are waterproofed.

The War Amps program has provided the funding for him to have the proper prosthetics for his sports.

“War Amps has been life changing for me,” he said. “I’ve been in the program ever since I was born, and it’s just made all the difference.”

And while he says he has been fortunate personally, he has also experienced the challenges in Para sport – something ParaTough Cup is aiming to help ease for all sports from grassroots to the Paralympic podium.

“Playing with Team BC it’s difficult to go to tournaments,” he said. “We have a low player count and it’s hard to commit. I’d love to grow the game in B.C. One of my goals is to help build a full team and go to tournaments.

“Fundraisers like the ParaTough Cup are really important for not just getting money, but for spreading the word and growing the game.”

Off the ice, it’s easy to understand how Pellizzari is relaxed at the fireside chat.

He has acted in movies and plays, done public speaking on behalf of the War Amps as well as guest speaking at university courses at the University of British Columbia, Langara College, and British Columbia Institute of Technology, he has been on the TV news, and was even a co-emcee at a fundraising gala for the Orthopaedic Department of BC Children’s Hospital.

“Those are experiences someone doesn’t get to do every day,” he said. “I’m grateful to have them so young.”

On the ice with Team Canada, he mentions four-time Paralympian Adam Dixon as someone who has helped guide him through those first few sessions and ensure he is feeling comfortable within the group off the ice as well. Longtime Canadian Para ice hockey star Greg Westlake, who retired after his fifth Paralympic Games in Beijing, has also been a role model of Pellizzari’s since he was little.

Pellizzari says being on the ice with many of the world’s best has been humbling.

“I can’t deny I’m not quite on the same level as them yet,” he said. “But I’ve already seen a difference in my game at that level, it’s so impactful. I’m excited to keep working with them.

“The speed of the game, the aggressiveness, it’s so much more high intensity. That was a wakeup call when I went to the tryouts. It took me awhile to catch up.

“I’m excited that one day I could get to that level.”

Can Crew Newsletter

Receive the latest news, athlete stories, and behind-the-scenes access directly to your inbox.

"*" indicates required fields