Burford Hockey Player Overcomes Tragedy

Doctor’s told him he would never walk again. However, the end of last month, Cody Spencer, not only stepped onto the ice at the Burford arena, but skated to the face-off zone to perform the ceremonial puck drop.

Cody Spencer is just like any other Canadian kid that loves the game of hockey. Just like his idol, Roberto Luongo, he was a goaltender playing for his hometown team, the Burford Coyotes. But on July 22, 2017, his life would change forever.

While Cody was running into the lake at his cottage, he fell face first, breaking his neck. The next day, when he went for surgery, was the day his journey began.

“It was obviously really hard at first,” explains Cody’s mother, Rachael. “It was really devastating news to find out that my son was paralyzed from the chest down but I’ve had the pleasure of watching him overcome so may obstacles, grow from this and do some incredible things with his life. It’s been an amazing experience actually.”

Cody’s doctors told his family ‘just don’t lose hope’ following the surgery. He was released from the ICU at Sunnybrook in Toronto on August 1, 2017 where he would then go to Lyndhurst Rehabilitation for the next three months. No matter where Cody was, his biggest fan and supporter, his mother, was right there with him.

Cody’s mother and biggest cheerleader, Rachael, watches while he learns to skate again at the Burford arena.

“It’s nice seeing all the support the community and my family has,” Cody said. “I’ve had so much support through the whole thing. It has really boosted my confidence through the whole ordeal I’ve been going through.”

Staying by his side paid off when one of the biggest milestones in Cody’s journey took place on August 17, 2017.

“I insisted on staying there with him, like any mother would. The nurses kept trying to send me home and I absolutely refused.”

Rachel Spencer, Cody’s mother

“I wanted to be by his side through this journey and I will never forget those moments,” Rachael adds. “They are some of the most exciting moments of my life, especially that first toe wiggle.”

“Learning how to do everything a different way again,” Cody explains as the most difficult part of his recovery. “I had to learn how to eat again, walk again, go to the washroom again – learning how to do everything in a different way.”

One of the best things he learned again was how to skate. Family friend and dedicated volunteer with Burford Minor Hockey, Ray Reavely, helped Cody to achieve his goal to get back on the ice.

“He wanted to get back on the ice. I had the available time on Fridays,” Reavely says. “I offered my services and he took me up on it and it’s been him all along.

“He’s opened up a lot to me about some of the stuff he’s gone through. It makes me think about stuff I take for granted. Cody is unreal.”

Ray Reavely, Burford Minor Hockey Volunteer

November 8, 2019 is the day he first stepped back on the ice. On November 30, 2019 he did it in front of a packed arena in Burford.

Cody had played with Burford Minor Hockey for ten years before the accident. When his rehab began, there was no doubt in his, or his mother’s mind, that he would be able to skate once again.

“It’s a good achievement considering doctor’s told me I would never walk again,” Cody says. “Getting back on the ice really means a lot to me.”

“It’s been awesome. Like a dream come true really,” Rachael says. “He’s always wanted to play for the Burford Bulldogs. obviously that dream will never come to fruition but this is as good as it’s gonna get, so it’s awesome.”

“It’s been a long journey, but a good road to recovery that’s for sure.”

Cody Spencer