It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, even for someone as accomplished as a former Paralympian and WHL hockey player.
When Calgary’s Chris Cederstrand was officially recognized as a community champion for making his mark in the lives of many, he was shocked — especially when he realized it came with a one-of-a-kind trip to Vancouver to catch the Calgary Flames live in action.
“It was a very, very big surprise,” he says, adding he thought he was being interviewed but was given the news about the Air Canada Fan Flight experience instead.
“It was an emotional thing. Definitely a lot of shock at first and then gratitude for everyone that went out of their way to make such an incredible experience for me and my family.”
Why he was chosen
Besides being a former WHL hockey player and a former Paralympian representing his country on the National Sledge Hockey Team, Cederstrand was also North America’s first above-knee amputee firefighter.
Cederstrand grew up playing sports, which ultimately led him to play for the Red Deer Rebels and the Swift Current Broncos before a concussion ended his hockey playing days.
In 2004, he went to firefighting school and graduated at the top of his class with a promising future ahead of him. He moved to Calgary, and while in the interview process for a firefighter career, he took a job in construction.
That’s when, at the age of 25, he lost his right leg in a workplace injury, altering his life forever.
During a life-saving surgery, his leg was amputated above the knee and 16 days later he was sent home from the hospital to recover.
“It was sport that eventually got me back into a very good place. The injury itself was a long time to recover but it was sport that brought purpose back into my life. And it’s been something near and dear to my heart ever since,” he explains.
A pillar of the community
It’s important to Cederstrand to give back to the community through his creation of the Cederstrand Foundation, which seeks to help kids with disabilities purchase adaptive sports equipment.
“That’s why I’ve gotten involved with kids’ sports and trying to make sports as accessible as possible for kids. Just because I go through my struggles, life lessons, and everything that I learned through sport are things that help carry me through some hard times.”
When it comes to the Air Canada Fan Flight experience, Cedarstrand is humbled to be this year’s recipient and thoroughly enjoyed the experience with his family.
“Anybody that’s rewarded with these types of things, nobody’s doing it for the limelight,” he says, adding he was honoured to receive this type of recognition.
“It was such an incredible experience.”
The Air Canada Fan Flight program provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience for hockey and basketball fans, and Andrew Shibata, vice-president of brand at Air Canada says Cederstrand was a perfect choice.
Each community champion is nominated by the Air Canada Foundation and the community partnerships team, recognizing the impactful work the recipients are doing in their communities.
“Chris was nominated for the work he does as the adaptive director at PX3 AMP hockey school and as an athlete ambassador with KidSport Calgary, as well as his ongoing commitment to making sledge hockey and other adaptive sports accessible to as many kids as possible in Alberta,” Shibata says.
“Air Canada believes it is essential to recognize and celebrate these changemakers, and we were thrilled to leverage the power of sport to create an Air Canada Fan Flight experience like no other for Chris.”
Know more about Calgary, every morning in just 5 minutes.
Get stories you won’t find anywhere else about the people, places, and businesses at the heart of our city.
By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Calgary Citizen.