Sheffield Ice Hockey: Man who lost leg less than a year ago aims for Team GB place in Para World Championships

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"I want my daughter to tell her friends at school that her dad plays for Team GB"

A Sheffield man who had his leg amputated last year is in with a chance to compete with Team GB in the Para Ice Hockey World Championship.

Damien Barker, aged 34, had his lower right leg amputated in June last year, due to issues and pain resulting from an injury over a decade earlier.

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The keen rugby and football player went a decade without playing any sport, but found Para Ice Hockey and joined the Sheffield Steelkings in 2021.

Damien Barker, 34, has been playing for Sheffield Steelkings since 2021. (Photo:  Dave Paget, Barcud Photgraphy)Damien Barker, 34, has been playing for Sheffield Steelkings since 2021. (Photo:  Dave Paget, Barcud Photgraphy)
Damien Barker, 34, has been playing for Sheffield Steelkings since 2021. (Photo: Dave Paget, Barcud Photgraphy) | Dave Paget at Barcud Photgraphy

Damien, from Hackenthorpe, said: "This sport and club have given me a new lease of life.

"The first time I was on the ice and got leathered, as you do, I was just laying there laughing.

"Officials were coming over asking ‘are you okay, are you okay?’ and I just couldn’t stop, because I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything like that again."

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Damien in his NEPIHL jersey, where he won gold with the Steelkings in 2022.Damien in his NEPIHL jersey, where he won gold with the Steelkings in 2022.
Damien in his NEPIHL jersey, where he won gold with the Steelkings in 2022. | Damien Barker

Damien initially injured his ankle while out running in 2012, and was told it was a sprain.

After years of pain, he was told by a surgeon in Leeds that it was actually broken in two places, but a deformity on his bone had allowed him to keep walking.

He added: "The club pulled me out of a very dark place and made me believe in myself once again.

Damien's daughter has the puck with which he scored his first ever goal on her shelf in her room. (Photo: Dave Paget at Barcud Photgraphy)Damien's daughter has the puck with which he scored his first ever goal on her shelf in her room. (Photo: Dave Paget at Barcud Photgraphy)
Damien's daughter has the puck with which he scored his first ever goal on her shelf in her room. (Photo: Dave Paget at Barcud Photgraphy) | Dave Paget at Barcud Photgraphy

"I didn't realise how much I had missed that changing room atmosphere, that camaraderie. A few weeks ago, we only lost one-nil to the first team, and we came off absolutely buzzing. 

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"I got MVP (most valuable player) for that and they brought my daughter down. She has the puck from my first ever goal, too."

After completing just one season with the club, he was asked to attend training camps with the Great Britain national side.

Damien Barker, 34, has been playing for Sheffield Steelkings since 2021. (Photo:  Dave Paget, Barcud Photgraphy)Damien Barker, 34, has been playing for Sheffield Steelkings since 2021. (Photo:  Dave Paget, Barcud Photgraphy)
Damien Barker, 34, has been playing for Sheffield Steelkings since 2021. (Photo: Dave Paget, Barcud Photgraphy) | Dave Paget at Barcud Photgraphy

"I want her to get back to school and tell her friends that her dad plays for Team GB," he added.

If chosen to represent Team GB at the 2024 Para Ice Hockey World Championships in Norway, he will be relying on donations for support, as it is a self-funded sport.

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He says on his GoFundMe page: "At a time where the cost of living is at the worst it has been in my lifetime, I know I am asking a lot. I wholeheartedly appreciate anything anybody can give.

"I can only promise everybody, if selected, I will go out there and make each and every one of you proud."

In 2022, Damien competed in the Northwest Europe Para Ice Hockey League, winning gold in Dordrecht with the Steelkings.

He will find out if he has been selected for the World Championships B-Pool in February.

Photos from Barcud Photography.

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