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  Thursday, October 23, 2014
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xtra xtra!
Joe Howard, Hockey Champion
By Rick Winterson

     This is a story that would not be believed if it were serialized in a magazine.  But it’s true.  In many ways, it’s a short, simple story of success against all odds.  Not only that, it has a wildly happy ending.  And it’s true.  Completely  true.

     Joe Howard was born in the original D Street projects in the late 60s.  He played hockey at the Murphy Rink from the age of four.  At 12, Joe moved to South Weymouth.  At 15, he was injured in a train accident.  The accident cost him both his legs.  Joe Howard was a paraplegic.

     Joe has learned to walk on two prosthetic legs.  He does it well.  There’s a limp, but Joe gets from Point A to Point B as well as anyone.  He was always a gifted athlete, so he entered into what is known as “adaptive” sports.  This led back to his first love – hockey.

     A paralympic hockey player literally sits on a single skate, which is short, double-bladed and has a bucket seat mounted on top.  There is a pivot point in front, but the idea is not to touch the ice with this pivot, except to balance or turn.  Otherwise, it slows a player down too much.

     The paralympic hockey player uses two short hockey sticks.  On one end of each stick is a smaller version of a conventional hockey blade.  On the other ends, there are serrated metal tips, which the player uses to propel himself across the ice.  Paralympic goalies wear regular upper body goalie pads.   The scoring is the same.  The action is fast, tough, and filled with checking – no quarter given.

     For almost ten years now, Joe has been a member of the USA National Team.  He is currently its captain, and plays left wing.  Every four years, after the Winter Olympic Games are completed, Paralympic teams go to the same venue from all over the world.  After the Winter Olympics in 2002, Joe and Team USA went to Utah to compete for gold in Paralympics VIII. 

     Team USA didn’t just win gold in the Paralympics, they declared war on the opposition.  Their Paralympic record in 2002 was a perfect 6-0.  In just six games, they scored a total of 30 (!) goals compared to only four goals against.

     Now, every happy ending has to have a romantic interest – that’s a requirement.  Joe had brought his girl friend, Carol Tribuna of Duxbury, to the 2002 Paralympics.  She was sitting in the stadium just after Team USA won, when Joe’s face appeared above her.  He proposed to her in the rink, with both his face and voice broadcast from the Jumbotron overhead, in front of 15,000 spectators (shades of “Fever Pitch”, but this is for real).  She said, “Yes”.  They have been married for three years and they live in Kingston.

     In the penultimate (neat word, huh?) chapter of Joe’s story, Joe promised his mother to bring back a gold medal as he left for Utah in 2002.  She was suffering from cancer, which unfortunately was terminal.  Joe came home, newly engaged to Carol, and put his gold medal around his mother’s neck.  She died two months later.

     The last chapter of Joe’s story is unfolding as you read.  On March 3, Joe left for Torino, Italy, to play hockey for Team USA in the 2006 Paralympics IX.  They take place from March 10 to 16.    



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