For three seasons, Chace Sperling patrolled the offensive blue line for the Saskatoon Stars, filling her opponents’ net with the puck.
The dedication, drive and commitment that saw her leave home at 14 to chase her dream, combined with her hockey skills, eventually lead her to her current role as a defenceman with the Robert Morris University Colonials, playing NCAA Division I hockey.
Saskatoon Valkyries helping empower women in sport
However, her dream was nearly taken from her before it all began due to a rollerblading accident.
“We were going down this hill, and there was a railing, and I didn’t know how to stop,” Sperling explained.
“So, I tried to grab onto the railing to stop, and then I got my leg caught in it and snapped it. I broke my tibia, fibula, and had a main artery puncture.”
Lucky for Sperling she wasn’t alone, being joined on this excursion by fellow teammates Joelle Fiala and Marah Wagner.
“I heard Chace screaming behind me, and I thought she was joking so I skated back to her laughing a bit, but when I saw her I kind of went into shock a little bit,” Fiala said.
The quick action of her two teammates helped to save Sperling’s leg, following a horrible grade 3 fracture.
Luckily for Sperling, her teammates shielded her from the injury before paramedics arrived.
Colton Stephenson gives back to next generation of Saskatchewan hockey with 2nd career
It wasn’t until days later, at the hospital, that her teammates recounted the harrowing news to her.
“They (the doctors) came out and told them, ‘All they’re trying to do is save my leg,’” Sperling said.
Over 2,500 km away, Chace’s parents, Jerold and Annette, were in the midst of harvest back home on their farm near Theodore, Sask., when they received the call.
“I was combining away when I got a phone call from Joelle,” father Jerold said. “She said, ‘Chace has had an accident, she broke her leg.’”
Jerold then relayed the information to Annette, who was in disbelief, over a walkie-talkie.
“I was Snapchatting Chace 10 minutes prior to that, so when I got told I was like, ‘You’re joking me, right?’” her mother said. “Then I opened up my Snapchat and there was a picture of her in the ambulance and I was totally devastated.”
Ava Drabyk carving out her own niche in boys hockey
Just 18 years old at the time of the injury, it would be easy to expect Chace to crave the familial bonds of her parents as she went through surgeries and recovery. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the sophomore defenceman made a tough decision with the strength of someone far beyond her years.
“It was really hard, they really wanted to come, but I was the one who said, ‘No, you need to worry about the farm,’” Chace explained. “I can do this on my own.”
“Chace is amazing,” her father stated. “Right from the beginning she said, ‘You’re not coming, I’m taking care of this myself. You can’t come because of COVID, and you need to get the crop in the bin.’”
Four surgeries, two plates and 15 screws later, Chace’s recovery began.
Her determined effort to get back to normal came as no surprise to longtime teammate and former Saskatoon Stars alumni Fiala.
“As soon as she was able to do things in the wheelchair or whether it was in crutches she was doing it. She was trying to do things on her own which was pretty awesome,” Fiala said. “Then she went home for Christmas and came back and was pretty much back to normal.”
In January, Sperling was granted contact status and enjoyed her first practice as a Colonial.
Then in late February, five months after suffering the horrific injury, she went from a potential amputation to playing in her first NCAA game.
“It will be a night that I never forget,” she said.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.