Para ice hockey players from the Sheffield Steelkings have raised enough money to represent team GB in the World Championships in Norway next month.

Damien Barker set up the fundraiser in December, which has raised over £1,700 so far.

He said: “I’m immensely proud. I have always played sports at a relatively low level but when I found para ice hockey, I just took to it. I felt something different that I hadn’t felt in other sports where I wanted to be the best I could be, and it’s nice to see that work pay off.

“[The team] are all proud and focused on the task at hand. We know what is expected of us and we have confidence in each other as a team. It’s like a second family, because although we only get together once a month, everybody gets on with everybody and the team morale is at an extreme high right now.” 

After breaking his ankle in a running accident 10 years ago, Damien was told he would never play sports again. 

He started playing for the Steelkings in 2021, after having a full ankle fusion to help ease the pain and stability issues. He decided to have his lower leg amputated last June. 

Damien Barker. Credit: Dave Paget Barcud Photography.

Team GB will play in Pool B of the World Championships, after moving up from Pool C two years ago. They will face tough competition from Norway and Germany, who recently moved down from Pool A, the top division. 

There are officially three other team members from the Steelkings who will join Damien, including Ben O’Brien, Paul Brown, and Bryan Hackworth, as well as three reserves. 

Player Coach and Chairman of the Sheffield Steelkings, Jake Oakley, said: “Anybody who gets to wear the GB lion has done really well, and I’m very proud because it means they’re taking in what we’re teaching at the Steelkings, and are applying it to a level that means they get to represent us on the world stage.”

The group recently set up a youth division, with the hopes that more people will get involved in the sport at a younger age, and will go on to play at a world level.  

Jake said: “Unfortunately at the moment para ice hockey doesn’t have a youth section. I want to change that because like any sport, kids are the future. Because our sport is adults only in this country, you normally find someone who’s in their mid to late twenties, thirties, or even forties and fifties. The younger we can find the kids, the better they will be, because they play instinctively.

“Despite the popularity in Sheffield, in this country ice hockey is a minority sport, and we are the minority playing within the minority sport, so we really do struggle to get exposure. But the more we bang the drum about the sport, the better chances we have of finding those superstars.”

Damien said he also wanted to pass down his knowledge and inspire the next generation.

“I grew up regularly getting injured in sports and felt there was nothing I could do whilst I was recovering. But there are so many disability sports out there that I could have done, I just didn’t know of them at the time.

“My daughter has just had a disability awareness event at school and has been telling her friends and teachers that her dad plays for Great Britain in para ice hockey, which has been an incredibly proud moment for her and myself.”

Damien’s GoFundMe page can be found here

With additional reporting from Chloe Boden.