Even a spinal trauma couldn’t get between 8-year-old Joe Lang and a hockey puck. Joe, a second-grader at Delano Elementary School, has been playing hockey since he was 3. But a year ago he was paralyzed from the abdomen down by a hemorrhage near his spinal column that led to emergency surgery and a stay in intensive care, including time on a ventilator. “He almost died,” said his father, Tony. Joe still doesn’t have any muscle control in his legs, but this year he’s playing in the Minnesota Sled Hockey Association, which offers a chance for disabled players from ages 5 through adult to play and in some cases even travel to compete against teams in other states. Players propel themselves using sawed-off hockey sticks with toe picks that dig into the ice, and can shoot with either hand. Checking is allowed. The Minnesota Sled Hockey Association has teams in the Twin Cities and Fargo and is working on adding some in Duluth, said president and founder Geri-Anne Zubich of Golden Valley. Joe also plays softball with the Courage Center in the summer. His therapy now involves monthly trips to Chicago, and he has shown some progress, his father said. “He’s still that neat kid,” Lang said. “The jocks like him. The girls like him. The nerds like him.”
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