At three years old, Steve Cash had to have his right leg amputated after he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Today, he is a three-time Paralympic sled hockey medalist, skating for the U.S. in Torino, Vancouver and Sochi – winning gold at the last two. In PyeongChang, Cash will mind the net once more for the U.S. team which appears to be in perfect position for the threepeat.
Who has been the most influential in helping you get to where you are today?
My parents were my rock growing up and have been throughout my sporting career. They gave me the motivation to get up everyday and strive for me. They never looked at me as disabled and they have forced me to go outside my comfort zone while letting me find my niche. My mom aided in my rehabilitation by teaching me how to rollerblade with my first prosthetic before I even had the walking part down. My dad made sure I made every practice and always encouraged me to think I was not only as capable as my peers but that I could excel in lieu of me having a disability.
What do you think of the word “disability”?
The term “disability” should only be used as an adjective and shouldn’t define who you are or how you should live your life.
When did you first become interested in hockey?
My brothers got me into hockey by strapping pillows and newspaper to me and shooting hockey pucks at me as hard as they could.
What is your earliest memory of seeing sled hockey at the Paralympics?
The local Disabled Athlete Sports Association sled hockey coach, Mike Dowling, introduced me to sled hockey by showing me a video of the 2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic team winning gold. It was then that I had realized sled hockey could provide me with an opportunity to represent my country as a Paralympian.
Did you have dreams of playing hockey at an Olympics when you were a kid?
My earliest memory of hockey was watching the U.S. men’s team in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. I had always been a fan of the Olympics even at a young age. While watching hockey, I always had the dream of donning the USA sweater. Fortunately, I reached that point in my life even if I had to take a different route to do it.
What’s something cool, weird or intense about sled hockey people don’t get to see?
Something cool, weird, and intense about my sport is how physical it is. I believe sled hockey can be deceptive in that the common misconception is we are not allowed to make contact or aren’t capable of it. It isn’t until people see and hear our sleds crash into one another that they realize we maintain the physical aspect of hockey as it translates over to sleds.
The hardest part for me as a goalie, as one can imagine, is being at a disadvantage by sitting in a sled; exposing the top half of the net. In addition to this, since my arms and legs are two in the same I have to be able to coordinate my movements by pushing with my arms while still trying to get my gloves up if a players were to shoot the puck toward the top half of the net.
Are there any other misconceptions about sled hockey you would like to clear up?
Aside from the physical part, players shoot the puck between 50-60 mph, on average. Some players can shoot harder, making it difficult to stop these high velocity pucks. I believe this showcases the strength and talent players have while using one arm at a time.
Are there any current or former Olympians or Paralympians you consider a role model?
My Olympic role model is Kerri Strug because of her courageous performance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
My pre-game rituals usually consist of even numbers. Whether that be eating two oranges or doing my stretches in even reps/sets. I don’t do odd numbers… ever.
Do your teammates have any creative nicknames for you?
My nickname is Cash Money, which is self-explanatory. My teammate, Rico Roman, likes to call me Cobra Commander because of my quick movements on the ice.
Karaoke is big in South Korea. Do you have a go-to song?
No, but if I did it would be “Livin’ On a Prayer” because I used to kill it in the video game, Rock Band.