Suffering from cone-rod dystrophy has prevented Everett Hiebert from being as active as he wants to be, but it hasn’t stopped him from playing the game he cherishes the most – hockey.
Day to day, the Altona, Man., teenager has a hard time seeing anything past the tip of his nose. But despite the struggles that sometimes accompany his blindness, Hiebert always flashes a grin wherever he goes.
That smile is at its widest when he’s able to lace up his skates and step onto the ice at the Sunflower Gardens.
Now in his second year enrolled in the Hockey Canada Skills Academy at W.C. Miller Collegiate, Hiebert feels not only fortunate to be able to practice his skills, but appreciative that he gets to do what he loves.
“I started skating in Grade 6 in Gretna (a small community south of Altona) and ever since then I’ve been liking it more and more,” Hiebert says. “[The Skills Academy] has helped me with my skills, and to gain a few abilities that I didn’t have before.”
For Gary Klassen, an educational assistant who works alongside Hiebert both on and off the ice, his presence has not only affected his morale, but also that of his teammates.
“Every player has been respectful and I’ve seen most of them help Everett with his abilities on the ice,” Klassen says. “I think it’s been a good thing for the group to allow him to be involved in these kinds of activities. He definitely has improved all his skills, from skating to shooting.”
While Hiebert absolutely loves working on his shot during practices, it’s another challenge he’s accepted that fuels his inner fire. “I’m also the equipment manager for the high school’s hockey team here,” he says with excitement.
“Everett’s jobs include hanging up the jerseys in the right spots and packing up all the sticks,” says Robert Smith, head coach of the W.C. Miller Aces. “He also does other things like filling up the water bottles and making sure the guys are ready for the game.”
While his manual tasks are carry their own level of importance for the Aces, it’s the inspiration that Hiebert brings to the dressing room that are most appreciated by Smith and the rest of the team.
“He helps me out … he reminds the guys that they need to work hard,” Smith says. “He’s kind of old school in that way; he tries to make the guys realize that they get what they deserve most games. If they work hard they’ll win, and if they don’t, Everett will be the first to remind them why they lost.”
While his everyday vision may be blurry, Everett Hiebert’s heart and passion for hockey certainly aren’t. He is proof that anyone can play the game and is a living testament of the values promoted by the Hockey Canada Skills Academy.