Greg Westlake fulfilled hockey dreams at Paralympic Games

Canadian Paralympic Committee

March 02, 2022

It was hockey or bust for Canadian team leader


From a young age, Greg Westlake was determined to be involved in hockey.

But with both legs amputated below the knee at age 18 months after he was born with a congenital lower limb condition, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to play in the NHL like his heroes he watched on TV.

Still the sport was social ground for Canada’s Para ice hockey star through his childhood and teenage years as he played stand-up hockey on his prosthetics.

“I never got to play a real high level of stand-up hockey,” he said. “I was just playing mostly because I wanted to play with my friends at school and live that normal childhood.”

But the ambition to excel in the sport at some level on or off the ice was prevalent for the young Westlake.

“Many of my best memories were watching the men’s and women’s Olympic teams,” said Westlake, 35, headed to his fifth Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. “Growing up, I was that kid that just loved Canadian hockey.

“Some of those goals and aspirations when you’re seven, eight, 10-years old, seems so far away. The idea of wearing that Maple Leaf after some of my hockey heroes seemed almost impossible at times.”

He began playing Para ice hockey with the Mississauga Cruisers in 2001 and made his debut in 2003 with Team Canada at age 17.

“I never heard of the sport of Para hockey and so I just never had those dreams. My dreams were to be a GM of an NHL hockey team or a scout or just working in hockey.

“Then I found the sport [Para ice hockey] and it kind of reignited that passion of, okay, maybe it is possible. It just has to be a different way than I first thought.”

Becoming a Para ice hockey player wasn’t easy at first.

“Making the transition was really hard because I didn’t have the skill set to get there,” he said. “I wasn’t physically strong enough. I couldn’t shoot the puck that well. I kind of tell everybody it’s fundamentally the same game but with a completely different skill set.

“It’s an interesting challenge and can be a frustrating one at times, but definitely rewarding once you get it.”

To say the least, Westlake has capitalized on his opportunity, becoming one of the greatest players and team leaders in Para ice hockey history.

At the Paralympic Games he has earned a gold, silver, and bronze in addition to world titles in 2008, 2013 and 2017. He was named captain of the national team in 2010, a position he held until 2019 when he handed the reins to teammate Tyler McGregor.

At the 2008 worlds, Westlake scored the game-winning goal with just eight seconds to go to defeat Norway in the gold medal showdown.

“That’s kind of the beauty about the Paralympics,” he said. “Adaptive sport really gives you that second chance at life.”

With hockey in his blood don’t be surprised to see Westlake prominently connected to the game once his playing days are done.

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