WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Those who are confined to a wheelchair don't have to miss out on sports because of it. One Wilmington teen found that out and powered up a hockey team on wheels.
Watching Justin Verzaal maneuver on the Miracle Field, you'd never think he only has about two years of experience.
"Handling the stick and stuff it's all practice. Practice is the best thing you can do,” Verzaal said.
That practice started when Justin saw the game, hockey adapted for wheelchairs, for the first time.
"I was at a Muscular Dystrophy Association camp and through that they showed power hockey to me and I was like, 'How can I be a part of this?'” Verzaal said.
He made himself part of the power hockey community by creating his own team in Wilmington called the Hot Wheels. Then, Verzaal found coaches.
"The very first game they had they asked me to come out and referee and help them. We've been helping them ever since and that was about a year and a half ago,” said Chris Faircloth, one of the Hot Wheels coaches.
Verzaal said anyone who wants to play can. That includes those who are disabled like Verzaal who has muscular dystrophy, or able-bodied like his coach Faircloth.
"I feel like any other hockey star. It's really cool to be able to have a sport, play it and call it my own,” Verzaal said.
"The strategy is all the same just get to that open space and get that shot," Faircloth said.
Even though the other team made up of Walgreens employees beat the Hot Wheels at their first game, everyone still got a great workout.
"I've got jacked up a bit in my time helping them just pumping the chairs,” Faircloth said.
And, most importantly, all the players had the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.
"I just think it's great for these guys to be able to compete with able-bodied people. You know, they sit in the chair and everyone's on even terms and just get out there and play some hockey,” Faircloth said.
Verzaal said he's always looking for volunteers to help fill some spaces at practices or put together another team his can play against. You can get involved by going to the Hot Wheels Facebook page.