Sledge hockey player who inspired team dies of cancer

Matthew Cook, a sledge hockey player who inspired Canada’s team at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver, has died of cancer.

Matthew Cook

Matthew Cook

EDMONTON — Matthew Cook, a sledge hockey player who inspired Canada’s team at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver, has died of cancer.

His family posted a brief message Sunday on Facebook.

“The family of Matthew Cook regrets to inform you that our beloved son and brother passed away this morning, at home,” the message said.

“Thank you for your support during the past weeks.”

Cook, 22, played last year for Canada in both the world championship and world sledge hockey challenge.

A return of the cancer that required the amputation of his left leg in 2006 prevented him from competing in Vancouver.

Doctors broke the news to him last fall that his bone cancer — the same kind of cancer that claimed the life of Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox — was terminal and that he only had a few months to live.

Earlier last year he still hoped he would be well enough to play again. His dream was to compete wearing the Team Canada jersey at the Paralympics.

“It would be a great way to thank my family and friends who supported me when I was at my ultimate low,” he told CTV News at the time.

Cook had other dreams before he was diagnosed.

He played hockey in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and hoped to earn a hockey scholarship in the United States.

Then one day in 2006 he went to the doctor with a sore ankle and was diagnosed with bone cancer.

After months of chemotherapy his left leg was amputated below the knee. There were complications in 2007 and 2008 that required further surgeries.

When he recovered he got involved in sledge hockey, earning a spot on Canada’s award winning national sledge hockey team.

Cook called it a dream come true.

Earlier this year his fellow players on the team posed between a Canadian jersey with Cook’s name on the back to inspire them at the Vancouver Paralympic games.

Friends expressed their condolences Sunday and paid tribute to Cook.