GANGNEUNG, South Korea—– The man who’s XBOX gamer handle is, “MrBenjaminBoom”, knew the sport was definitely for him after the big man gave his first major hit on the ice, saying:
“We played a friendly game and I went into the guy head on. I looked up for a penalty and there was no penalty, just gloves and sticks all over the place and I said, ‘This is my sport’ he continued, “I love the physicality, mano-a-mano is my thing. When someone hits me, I am smiling. Even when I get hit good, it is fun for me.”
For Ralph DeQuebec, Afghanistan may have taken both his legs, AND it may have left him with a piercing on his arms from his gun, AND it may have left him with small amounts of brain damage, but NOTHING will break this 34-year-old Defenseman’s fighting spirit for the United States of America in his first trip to the Paralympic games.
If you ask this retired Marine, Los Angeles native, and USA Sled Hockey enforcer about his fight to stay alive after 30 surgeries and Pneumonia stemming from a blast he encountered while on his third tour of Afghanistan in June 2012, he’ll tell you the story of how a blast knocked him back. When he landed, his left leg was no longer attached… and his right foot had disappeared. The blast was the impetus to eventually get both legs completely amputated. Though, if you ask him, he doesn’t consider himself a hero by any means:
“I think the heroes never made it back. So, I usually just say thank you because it’s the polite thing to do, respectfully, but I have had a lot of friends die in combat and those are my heroes. So, anytime that someone asks me what I’m playing for, I’m playing for those guys, “ said DeQuebec.
Ralph, who also had his left middle finger removed, now plays for the Colorado Avalanche sled hockey team back at home, and knew nothing of the sport of sled hockey before his injury but he is a quick learner when he first started with the USA Warriors Sled Hockey club in Rockville, Maryland. In fact, he credits his XBOX for learning the rules so quickly,
“I did not know the rules so I started playing video games. Just watch it on TV and if you do not know what is going on, you still don’t know what is going on. But by playing video games I got to understand the game better. That’s how I got to it.”
It’s not all work and no play for DeQuebec, who when he is at home, enjoys the finer things in life, like watching Hockey, eating fish tacos from his favorite spot “Beach Bay Cafe” in San Diego, California and listening to his favorite artist Mazi’s rap music. However, for Ralph, all that will have to wait until he gets back to the United States. Because for him and his team it’s “gold or bust”.
The team has nicknamed DeQuebec “Wreck-It-Ralph” in reference to the Disney movie due to the way that he just clobbers the opposition with his tackling ability. But he is a man on a mission while playing here in Gangneung’s Hockey Centre saying,
“It is my world right now…I put a lot of stuff on hold and this is all I am focused on: this is everything.”
Ralph DeQuebec and Team USA Sled Hockey are hoping to press all the right buttons on the ice and will start their Preliminary matches on Sunday at noon (Korea Time) (Saturday 10 P.M. EST).