My Career Starting Injury

Kiernan Block

My name is Kieran Block and I was born on June 14, 1985. I am a World Champion in the sport of sledge hockey; I am a USports Hockey National Champion, a Western Hockey League Champion and a 3x National Coach at the provincial level in the sport of sledge hockey.

My birthday is June 14, 1985, yet every year on August 6th I get a happy birthday text from my dad and I know exactly what he means. When I speak about my life with friends, in interviews, in talks, or even now as I’m working on this write up, it never ceases to amaze me how far-reaching the effects of my accident were. On August 6th, 2007, I had a devastating injury that changed the course of my life. I shattered my legs in a near fatal cliff jump accident in Jasper, Alberta. I fell from about 25 – 30 feet straight to the rocks down below. Even now, over a decade after the fact, it continues to reverberate through every thread of my life in both positive and negative ways. I don’t think there’s any part of me that I could fully explain without mentioning the accident. It’s a strange and uncomfortable notion: the most traumatic experience of my life up to this point was a net positive. I’m proud of how hard I worked to make it that way and, most of all, grateful for everyone who helped me. But in order to get to a point where I could say that and mean it, I had to stare down everything that my accident cost me.

I shattered my tibia and fibula in my right leg and broke my left foot and heel. I went from a varsity athlete at the University of Alberta working 2 jobs, to needing someone to look after me full time. The pain and the losses that I’ve faced are still hard to think about. Even as they retreat into the distant past, I have memories encoded in all five senses that are just as vivid and brash as ever. It’s enough to make me nauseous just thinking about what happened, and believe me when I say that I’ve rehashed, re-lived, and analyzed that split second in an impossible number of ways. I slogged through years of rage, sadness and regret before I could honestly say that, for all that it’s cost me and as much as it will forever haunt me, I wouldn’t go back to change it. Undoing everything that I’ve built since the accident would be even more devastating than the accident itself. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better man than I would have otherwise become. That fall was the defining moment of my life. On the rocks, shivering and spitting blood onto the moss, I found a thousand times more than I lost.

For a long while after my accident, my recovery consumed the entirety of my time, my thoughts and my energy. Only very briefly was I fighting for my life in the sense of survival, but I’ve spent all of the last twelve years fighting to rebuild or replace everything inside that life.

Those injuries were never a part of me; they were just a thing that happened to me. They don’t define me any more than the smaller obstacles do.

It’s said that history is written by the victors. Well, I beat my accident, I am the victor and this is my history to write. I’ll never forget—I’ll just stop remembering.

To me, recovering from my accident wasn’t an accomplishment. If you want to talk about accomplishments, I’ve got a couple of those: sports, teaching, travelling, relationships—all that.

I have been determined to celebrate what I have. When I began my sledge hockey career, my friend expressed pure excitement for the travel that he got to experience and let me tell you it was contagious. When I traveled to different cities and countries for competition, I got a taste for what the world was like. Since my sledge career ended in 2016, I have continued to explore the world. Most notably, my 70 km 4-day hike to Machu Picchu, which is something I never thought I would be able to do after I broke my legs. I have always focused on what I am able to do. I have experienced 5/7 continents and I am eager to get to Africa for what will most likely be my last ‘new’ continent. I don’t know if I will get to Antarctica or not.

I began a new career as a motivational speaker after a segment aired on TSN. I was completely honoured and humbled by this experience. I had so many people reach out to me to say what an inspiration I was, I took it upon myself to keep the momentum going. I joined a company called Motivate Canada and I started speaking in schools about my experiences. My speaking career blossomed from there.

As a hockey player, I think the gold medals and championships I have won speak for themselves. I am a champion in the sport of hockey, even without any of that, because I went from stand up hockey to sledge hockey when I could have easily given up on myself. I don’t know if I mentioned I made the National Sledge Hockey team 10 months after I first started playing – and finished my hockey career playing with the Stony Plain Eagles in the Allan Cup hockey league. It is Sr. AAA and I was blessed to play with NHL hockey legend, Captain Canada himself, Ryan Smyth.

As a teacher, my career was put on hold for a little bit while I competed with Team Canada and now I have embraced my new teaching role wholeheartedly. I am currently teaching in a program called PBS or Positive Behaviour Supports. It is a soft pull out program in the Edmonton Catholic School Division. We take children who have not had success in their community schools for one reason or another and we focus on positive pairing with the child and educating their support staff that comes with them. Just like in my life, we focus on the positive things the children do, instead of the negative to encourage them to focus on the positive. The end goal is to rehabilitate the child back into their community school, usually within the year.

My accident is just a weighty entry in a long list of things that couldn’t stop me. It’s the reason I played sledge hockey. It’s the reason I got into motivational speaking. That’s about it. As a teacher, a friend, a brother, a son, a boyfriend, a film buff, a traveller, or almost any other part of me, my disability is a footnote at most. These days, my greatest difficulty is that, with the way I walk, I spill water all over the place when I try to fill up my ice cube tray. Of course, for someone to really get to know me, we’ll eventually have to talk about the accident. Someday, I’ll tell them about it over a glass of whisky at my place. When that happens, the only thing I’ll be worrying about is whether or not they’re going to ask for it on the rocks.


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