At 10 years old, Tucker Olson enjoys being on the ice as much as the next hockey-crazed kid.
But it’s much harder for Tucker, as he has spina bifida. Tucker is wheelchair-bound, but is obsessed with the sport, not unusual in the Olson family of Langdon.
“We all love hockey,” said Tonia, Tucker’s mother. “It started with his older brother (Tanner). He’s been a huge fan of going to games his brother’s in.”
To foster that love, the Olsons took Tucker to Minot multiple times to play “sled hockey” which allows Tucker to move around on the ice and play hockey. In fact, “Anybody with mobility issues can play. It can be for the blind or any disability,” Tonia said.
The Olsons wanted to give Tucker a chance to play a little closer to home, so a fundraiser was put together to raise money for sleds. Farmers Union Insurance agent Russell Stremick donated four UND hockey tickets to the silent auction.
“We’re in a small community, and it’s like a family,” Stremick said. “When you can do something that brightens up a day for a great kid, it’s a no-brainer.”
The Olson family raised $13,000 to put toward seven sleds including Tucker’s. There is also enough money to make the local hockey arena handicap-accessible.
But the icing on the cake was a video message from professional hockey player Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild to Tucker. Parise is a former UND skater.
The entire night was incredible, Tonia said.
“It was crazy,” she said. “We were stunned — I think there was crying, but hardly any speaking. Who could speak? Especially when they present you with a $13,000 check.”
The family had a “tryout” for anybody that wanted to try the sleds and possibly be part of a local team with Tucker. It drew the attention of a sled-hockey coach from right across the border, only 40 minutes from Langdon.
“He had a wealth of knowledge,” Tonia said. “He has a team in Canada called the Sledgehammers.”
Tucker plans on joining the Canadian team with games against teams in Minot and Fargo a possibility in the future. For now, he’s cruising the ice, where he is in complete control.
“The independence it gives him, instead of that wheelchair,” Tonia said. “He doesn’t have to depend on someone else to push him, and it’s really good exercise.
“Everyone in Langdon was so supportive of this. It really means a lot.”
— Chris Aarhus, NDFU