Jun 11, 2024 - Sports

Colorado Sled Hockey president earns NHL "hero" nomination

A man rides a sled skate while using his two arms to propel himself forward while on stop of a frozen lake.

Jerry DeVaul. Photo: Courtesy of Cody Klein

Jerry DeVaul vowed to keep the promise he made the day he nearly died.

Why it matters: Keeping his word may earn DeVaul, the president of the Colorado Sled Hockey Association, the NHL's Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award.

Flashback: While working in a coal mine in Trinidad, Colorado in October 2011, he was accidentally struck on-site by a utility vehicle, losing his legs.

  • As he waited for help, DeVaul, who is Catholic, prayed to stay alive. In return, he pledged to help others live with a disability he suddenly realized he'd also have to overcome.
  • "As soon as you spare my life, I will do what I have to do to inspire people daily," he said he remembers praying to God.

Zoom in: DeVaul, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Colorado Springs, picked up sled hockey in 2016 after his wife, Regina DeVaul, noticed a bus advertising the sport. It's a variation of the game for players with physical disabilities —

The latest: He now coaches adults and kids while playing the sport competitively.

  • In a promotional video released by the NHL, people DeVaul works with shared how he's impacted their lives, including a fellow player who credits DeVaul with helping him feel included after his military discharge.

What he's saying: "It's a great feeling to know that you help someone, change them, and get them on a path of bettering themselves," DeVaul tells us.

What's next: He will join two other finalists in Las Vegas for the award announcement on June 28.

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