TEAM RUSSIA CAPTURES GOLD ON AND OFF THE ICE AT WORLD JUNIOR A CHALLENGE
Tyler was an inspiring athlete and hockey player. Hockey has always been a major part of his family's lives; dad Greg coached Tyler and mom Sherri-Lynn was the president of Tumbler Ridge Minor Hockey Association and little sis tagged along as Tyler's number one (1) fan. Tyler has always identified himself as a hockey player and his team has meant so much to him; they're like family. Hockey has taught him dedication, sportsmanship and, while winning is awesome, it's okay to lose. Hockey was fun for Tyler! When music was playing during the game everyone would notice him dancing on the ice while waiting for puck drop.

Tumbler Ridge is a small community in the Peace River Regional District in north east BC, so most of the kids he's been with are most of the same kids since pre-Novice. After every year end banquet they knew they'd meet up again in September once the ice was in.

But in October 2018, everything started to change.

The family made a difficult trip to Newfoundland to say goodbye to Tyler's great-grandfather who was like a second dad to him despite the distance between them. The day after they arrived, Tyler had his first seizure and continued to have seizures daily. He was sent to a neurologist who diagnosed Tyler with a form of epilepsy that they said he would grow out of and was recommended to see a pediatric neurologist when the family returned home.

When they returned home, the seizures continued, but increased to multiple seizures daily. Greg and Sherri made the difficult decision to pull him from hockey until they knew what was happening. Due to the frequency and duration of the seizures, Tyler was airlifted to BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver where he spent two (2) weeks undergoing multiple tests. The neurology team was unable to determine the cause of the seizures and was diagnosed with complex partial seizures and sent home with three (3) different medications.
While in the hospital, all Tyler talked about with the doctors and nurses was his hockey team, how much he missed them and couldn't wait to get back to the game. He was chatting with a volunteer one day and was asked who his favourite National Hockey League (NHL) player was. His response: Brendan Gallagher. To his surprise, the volunteer said she went to school with his brother and later came back to give Tyler his email address. Tyler sent him a message and when he arrived back in Tumbler Ridge, there was a package waiting for him from Gallagher that
included a signed picture and hat. That meant the world to him and he couldn't wait to get back on the ice!

The neurologist cleared him to get back on the ice, but Greg and Sherri-Lynn were to monitor how his seizures affected his energy levels. His first two (2) weeks back were like he had never missed a practice, even though he was still having daily seizures. His parents had to continue to increase the doses of medication until they stopped which finally came at the end of December. But all the medications were taking a negative toll on Tyler; he was constantly tired, hungry and lost the drive for all the things he loved, including hockey. It was a struggle, but he finished out the year.

No one was ready for the changes in Tyler. He was always a happy, energetic child that was able to find the positive in any situation. He loved to help others and seemed to always have a smile on his face. For most of 2019, he had difficulties in school, getting along with peers and always feeling dizzy.

His sister would often say, "I miss the old Tyler."

Many times Sherri-Lynn spoke with the neurologist from the BC Children's Hospital and they would change the levels of one (1) medication, then another. They were told they had to continue to wait for them to find the right combination of medications and that it would take some time. With the exception of his dizzy spells, Tyler's seizures were considered under control.

The medication changes caused him to have a rough summer. Greg and Sherri-Lynn wanted a second opinion and were seen at the Children's Stollery Hospital in Edmonton. They decided the best way to determine what was happening would be to admit Tyler for telemetry testing (hooked to a EEG leads 24/7 while being monitored). Tyler and Sherri-Lynn were admitted last September, the first day they determined that his dizzy spells were "simple partial seizures" and the amount of medications prevented the "complex partial seizures."

He had 132 seizures in seven (7) days. After another MRI, the family was told that Tyler's case would be presented to a panel and the recommendation would be brain surgery. They are still waiting to hear what's next and Tyler continues to have seizures daily.

Returning in October was really difficult for Tyler. Not only was he disappointed he couldn't play hockey, and up to this point the only time he cried was when he watched his teammates have their first practice, but now he was worried about the thought of having brain surgery.

Three (3) days after their return home, Tyler fell on a glass and cut the main artery in his wrist. It was stitched up and he went about his days. He didn't miss any home hockey games, always there cheering on his teammates and holding the doors when they went on the ice. It hurt him so much not being out there. Unfortunately, his cut did not heal properly and he had to have emergency surgery to fix the damage. Through all this, Tyler was still thankful to the doctors for helping him get better.

When they heard that the Russian hockey team was coming to Tumbler Ridge as part of the World Junior A Challenge, Tyler couldn't wait to watch them practice. When Sherri-Lynn asked if he wanted to watch their practice with the Pee Wee team the following night he said, "Mom, I can't. That's my team and I should be out there too."

That broke Sherri-Lynn's heart. She called the mayor to see if there was something he could do to help Tyler meet the Russian team. No one could have imagined all that would happen from that initial call.

The mayor and council invited Tyler to go to dinner with them and the team and told him that he would have the chance to meet them before their practice. Tyler was so excited he nearly fell over the arena stairs as the mayor told him the exciting news!

The team welcomed him and offered words of encouragement. A player brought along his translator to tell him about a similar situation his brother went through and he believed he would too. He got his picture with the team and they all hugged him. At dinner, he sat with the team and played rock, paper, scissors and they exchange air pods, he was listening to their music and them his. Tyler was so overjoyed that they were so kind to him and believed in him.

Tyler went to watch their last practice in Tumbler Ridge and when he called his mom for a ride home, she couldn't believe the excitement in his voice. He had just spent the last hour hanging out with the team, taking selfies, listening to music, dancing and sharing their snacks, making him feel part of a team again. There were kids coming up to Tyler asking him if the players would come out for pictures and he was bringing in items to be signed by the team. Then the captain gave him a yoga mat, and he joined the stretches.

As he told his family all about it, they were all in tears. He couldn't stop laughing while he was telling stories about the players joking around with each other.He said that being able to spend time with them was worth more than any of the gifts they gave him. And they spoiled him!

As he was leaving he said goodbye and the team said "It's not goodbye, we'll see you in Dawson Creek!"

Tyler was then asked to be the junior host for the team during the tournament. He couldn't wait! Almost overnight he was holding his head higher, his big smile returned and he was steady shooting pucks outside again.

On behalf of the Hockey Canada Board of Directors and Tourism Dawson Creek, the family was given tickets to every Russian game they wanted to attend.

He said to his parents, "I get it mom. I didn't lose hockey, this is just time for me to get better." Sherri-Lynn could not believe what she heard, finally a positive about not being able to play hockey this season. Like the dedication he had for his own team, was the same for the Russians.

Tyler was at every game and told them no matter how they did in the tournament, they were number one (1) in his heart.
As he watched them play and got to know the players more, some would see him and say "hey little bro" or "little buddy." His confidence was starting to grow.

Then Sherri-Lynn heard something she never thought she would hear. "I'm ready ready to get this surgery over with so I can get my life."

Words cannot describe the admiration and respect their family has for the Russian team!

Heading into the semi-finals, Tyler was pumped up the team like he was heading out on the ice with them. "Come on boys! You got this!" He was so proud to be dressed just like them (the team gave him a matching track suit). When he found out the Russians were heading to the gold medal game against Canada East , his smile was permanent from ear to ear!

And what a game that gold medal game was to watch! When they won, Tyler cried tears of joy with the rest of the team. They hugged and celebrated with him as if he'd always been with them. When they were taking the team picture Tyler tried to move to the back, but the head coach pulled him in and said, "You're one of us!"
Sherri-Lynn knew saying goodbye to the team would be hard on Tyler. The team told him they won it for him and said that they believe in him and he should believe in himself. He left crying and told his parents that he loves them all and will keep in touch with them after they return to Russia.

While he might not be registered in minor hockey this season, he found a team in Team Russia of the World Junior A Challenge gold medalists.

Through these trying times, the stress and emotional strain on the family has been lifted by Team Russia accepting him and ignited his fire for hockey once again!

Hockey really is a universal language that knows no boundaries and can bring people together from all backgrounds and nationalities!
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