Scott Stafford is one of 43 hopefuls trying out for the Central Hockey League’s Denver Cutthroats on Saturday and Sunday, but the 23-year-old’s journey already has him standing out from the crowd.
Stafford was born without a left hand after his umbilical cord wrapped around his wrist and cut off circulation. The doctors were unable to save his hand, but, growing up, the Ontario native didn’t let the loss stop him from playing the game he loved. He and his dad discovered that by wrapping his jersey into a ball and taping it to the stick, he would be able to use his left arm to help control the puck and get a strong shot off.
Stafford still employs that method of play today.
“I’ve kind of used hockey to show people it’s just a hand,” Stafford told the Hamilton Spectator in 2011. “It’s only a disability if you let it be.”
In addition to playing Junior B hockey, Stafford has made the Canadian amputee team, and he is already making a strong impression with the Cuthroats — – a farm team of the Colorado Avalanche and the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters — on just the first day of tryouts. And head coach Derek Armstrong is among those impressed.
“This kid is fun to watch. It really is amazing,” Armstrong told the Denver Post.
What’s amazing is how unnoticeable it is that Stafford is playing one-handed. While trying out for the Dundas Real McCoys, a Senior “AAA” team out of Ontario, Stafford didn’t tell the general manager, the coaching staff or the other players that he was playing with only one hand, and they expressed genuine shock when they found out, according to the Hamilton Spectator.
“I’m a hockey player first,” Stafford said. “An amputee second.”
While his skills on the ice are certainly remarkable, Stafford’s attitude off the ice is equally noteworthy as his sense of humor makes the winger even easier to root for.
“All my goals are short-handed,” Stafford quipped.
Check out a video of some of Stafford’s highlights below.