Hanna Hughes, a 22-year-old from Rochester, was just named to the USA Women’s Sled Hockey team! Around 40 women tried out for the team and just 17 made it, (fifteen skaters and two goalies).

“I never played hockey growing up, I played soccer year-round. It was in the winter of my sophomore year in high school, during indoor league, that I started having pain in my hip, and at first they thought it was a sports injury and I did physical therapy and stuff for it, but it really didn't get any better, so we asked them to do an MRI, and that is when they found a grapefruit sized tumor in my hip,"  Hughes says.

Two days later, she started 10 rounds of chemotherapy, but when they discovered that the tumor wasn't responding, it was decided that the best course of action was to amputate her leg, hip, and half of her pelvis. Following that, she did 17 more rounds of chemo, and now she is going on six years cancer free!

"I honestly never thought that I would play a sport again, until I learned about sled hockey in college," Hughes says. "The first week of school (at the University of Minnesota-Duluth) I met a kid named Ezra, and we were both looking for an elevator because he was in a wheelchair, too, and he just asked if I ever thought about playing hockey, and I thought he was joking, but he showed me a YouTube video of it. I started practicing with him and I picked it up really quick, and I eventually just joined the team. (The Minnesota Wild Sled Hockey team) I really didn't think I would ever play sports again, so playing at this level, is pretty surreal.”

Hughes says she recently switched from an attacking player to a defender, which must have been the right decision! As a member of the USA Women's Sled Hockey Team and will be traveling all over the country and world, so show off her skills.

“At the end of the month we have our training camp in New Jersey, and then next month, we are going to Norway for a week -- they could only send 13 players, and I was one of the ones they picked for that, so that's going to be fun,” says Hughes.

Her hope is to someday represent the US in Women’s sled hockey at the Olympics.  She is pretty close to achieving that goal. The USA Women’s Sled Hockey team will be competing in exhibition games in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and will hopefully be a medal sport for the 2022 Games.

“None of that is a guarantee, because I have to try out for the team every year. But I hope to just keep working hard and getting better and better every year,” Hughes says.

I just got to watch Hanna play in the Rochester Mustangs Celebrity All-Star sled hockey game this weekend as the Mustangs took on NHL/AHL alumni and paralympic gold medalists and Hanna was AWESOME!  I'm so excited to watch her career with the USA Women's team!

Photo Courtesy of Hanna Hughes