Sledge hockey player Zach Lavin making the most of life

Canadian national team para hockey player Zach Lavin is always appreciative of life.  That's because he feels he was given a second chance.

Back in 2015 when Lavin was just 19 years old he decided he wanted to go for a hike.  It was a decision that would change his life forever.

Lavin had moved to Alberta from Ontario and wanted to check out the mountains.  In late February, he headed out to Kananaskis to do the Death Valley Trail.

He got disoriented and ended up being lost in the freezing cold for three days.  Lavin wasn't sure if he was going to survive.

"Those thoughts definitely crossed my mind and I think due to dehydration as well," he said.  "There was some tough things and it took me a bit to keep level-headed.  Family was a big part of what kept me going, I think."

FOUND AFTER THREE DAYS

After spending three days in the cold Lavin came upon a fence, climbed it and found a road.  It was the first man-made thing he had seen in days.

He heard voices calling his name.  Shortly after search and rescue found him. 

"I remember there was volunteers that came and they gave me a blanket and stuff," he said.

"It was pretty emotional coming out of the woods finally and it felt like pretty quickly after that my family was around and the paramedics came."

DOUBLE AMPUTATION DUE TO SEVERE FROSTBITE

Although thankful to be rescued and his life saved, Lavin knew something wasn't right.  His hands were swollen, red and painful.  He couldn't feel his feet.  It turns out he had severe frostbite.

His hands would heal but his feet wouldn't.  In March of 2016 he had to make the very difficult decision to have double amputation below the knees.

"It took some time (to make) that decision," he said. "I thought about it quite a bit because that had another option that probably wouldn't have worked where they could do some sort of skin grafting or something like that as I recall and they said that option probably isn't going to work long-term, it will just be a more painful way to go about getting an amputation down the road."

"So I thought about it, talked about it with the family and it was a tough decision but you know over time, and especially meeting likewise amputees that are out living awesome lives and being fit and active still, it's something that I overcame and it's what I know now."

FINDING SLEDGE HOCKEY

Lavin had always been active and he wanted to continue playing sports.  He was introduced to sledge hockey and became very good at it.

Just a year after the accident he was selected to pay for the national para hockey team. 

Lavin said it changed his life.

"Yeah just being around the guys that I've gotten to meet through this," Lavin told CTV.

"It's pretty awesome how they've shaped my whole perspective and changed me."

GOING FOR GOLD

Earlier this week Lavin was one of 17 players selected to represent Canada at the World Para Hockey Championships being held in Ostrava, Czech Republic from June 19 to the 26.

It's Lavin's second trip to the worlds.  In 2019, Canada won the silver medal.  Lavin said he hopes Canada has a different result this time around.

"We fell short at the last (2020 championships in) Ostrava (Czech Republic), so it would be really awesome to go back and we got a little more heat now I think and a different looking group of guys too," Lavin said.

"We've got a lot of young energy coming in so I'm pretty excited.  We're going for gold for sure."

Canada opens on June 16 against their arch-rival, the United States.