Doctors told him he’d never walk again, but today, he stands tall with a World Championship ring in sledge hockey, an Olympic bronze medal, a book about his journey, and his own business, The Sledge Hockey Experience.
It was 2006 when 23-year-old Kevin Rempel was in a freestyle motocross accident which broke his back, pelvis, and ribs, leaving him paralyzed. They thought that he would never walk again, but fortunately, he did not sever his spinal cord and after six weeks, he wiggled his first toe. Within a year of hard work and a bit of luck, Kevin was walking again and even back on his bike.
Rewind to four years prior to his accident, Kevin’s father became paralyzed from an accident while deer hunting, and during Kevin’s one year recovery, his parents split up. Seven weeks after the split, Kevin’s father took his life. Through all of these ups and downs there’s no doubt that Kevin felt lost. Thankfully, that’s when sledge hockey entered his life and gave him a new passion to pursue.
After joining Team Canada following the Vancouver Paralympics, going on to win the World Championships in 2013, and a bronze medal at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, he was inspired to write a book. On July 15th, 2016, exactly ten years from his accident, he launched that book entitled Still Standing. In addition to his sledge hockey accomplishments, and writing a book about his story, Kevin was public speaking in hopes to inspire others to overcome their own challenges. It’s from this that Kevin realized the opportunity to create a business around his passion for the sport.
“I would be at practice with kids banging on the glass with their parents asking ‘How can I try sledge hockey?’ or I would get the same question from the audience at a speaking engagement,” he explained. Kevin realized that he just didn’t have a satisfying answer for them and so he created one.
Kevin was released from Team Canada at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season and after years of being entrepreneurial and having different business experiences (including a business that failed), he knew at that moment that he had to start working full-time on turning this passion into a business. That’s when The Sledge Hockey Experience was born.
The Sledge Hockey Experience was created to give able bodied people the chance to try the sport which will ultimately turn them into advocates for those with disabilities. The experience pushes leaders outside their comfort zone, creates open dialogue around diversity and inclusion, plus is a fantastic team building activity. The day goes through everything from heading to the rink as a team and unloading your equipment, to having a personalized dressing room experience with your own personalized stall with custom jerseys, name bar, etc. “Imagine being a Team Canada national level athlete. What would that be like? This is what I want you to experience,” he explains. Your team will then get a chance to hear Kevin’s story, and will continue onto the ice where you’ll go through drills and skills, race, and of course, play a game of sledge hockey.
The whole goal of the experience is to grow the awareness of the sport, and give people the chance to know about it, experience it, and learn from the sport and the athletes. “Rather than focusing on the small population of people with a disability to grow the sport, I want to help the rest of Canada become advocates it.”
Through all Kevin’s challenges he had to overcome in his life, he radiates positivity and has an evident passion for his business. His goal is to live with no regrets and to be the hero of his own movie. “I saw my Dad work for nearly 30 years waiting to enjoy his life once he hit retirement. Then what happened? One year from retirement he was paralyzed and couldn’t enjoy life the way he planned,” Kevin shared. “I didn’t want that to be my story, I wanted my story to be a life lived with no regrets.”
Kevin explained that what kept him going through the hardships in his life is that the mentality of an entrepreneur is similar to that of a motocross rider, when you’re injured, you don’t think about finding a safer sport, you think about when you can ride again. “I wanted to be a hero on the bike, the guy who literally learned how to walk again and became a Paralympian on Team Canada, this same guy can be the entrepreneur who flops on his first attempt, and fails multiple times throughout the years. This same guy can figure all this shit out, learn from his mistakes and make this the best business that both he or anyone has ever seen before.”
Kevin Rempel is truly an inspiration and is living proof that a journey to your destiny may be full of road bumps and detours. Although it may take some time to get yourself to where you want to be, if you work hard enough, and are passionate, it will all fall into place. Kevin wanted to leave others with this last piece of inspiration:
“If I can do it, you can do it. If I can endure everything that I have been through and find a way to build an amazing life from it, there’s no excuse why you too can’t overcome your challenges. If I can go through multiple entrepreneurial failures and ten years later come out with a solid business plan, it’s not too late for you to start or to rewrite your script. It takes time. It requires making mistakes. It takes guts, will power, a vision, determination, perseverance, sleepless nights, tears and a whole other mix of emotions. I can promise you however, that if you are willing to weather the storm, it will always be worth it. Don’t ever give up.”
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada