Hanging on the wall of the Sison family home in Edmonton are a picture and
a puck; symbols of a dream the family only started sharing a few years ago,
when eldest son Branden tried para hockey for the first time.
“It was basically love at first sight because the feeling of skating …
[para] hockey skating, allowed me to have more control,” the 21-year-old
Sison was born without a fibula in his right leg (fibular hemimelia),
resulting in an amputation below the knee. He grew up using a prosthetic
and never let it slow him down when playing sports with friends; at least,
“I remember when I was playing, there would be times where my prosthetic
leg would malfunction because the foot would be on a pivot access and
sometimes the screw would get loose,” Sison says, laughing at the memory.
“My foot would be doing 360s while I would be running so that would be a
little bit of an embarrassing situation.”
John Sison was working a night shift as a paramedic the first time his son
tried para hockey, but said it quickly became the talk of the house. The
family even traveled to Leduc, Alta., to watch the 2016 national
“That’s when he first saw national competition and the intensity that was
involved,” John recalls. “When he saw that, it became his goal. He has a
very narrow vision of trying to achieve what he sets out to achieve.”
Later that same year, at just 16 years old, Sison was invited to Canada’s
National Para Hockey Team selection camp. Though he didn’t make the cut,
staff saw plenty of potential and asked Sison to keep working with them,
which lead to a development camp in Montreal and a series against the
This time, John was in the stands, with his camera at the ready.
“[Branden] more or less managed to get the puck mid-ice and get a breakaway
and I was just looking through that lens and I was just hoping that he was
able to get that goal,” an emotional John remembers with a smile.
Gesturing to his own face, he adds, “I’m just recalling his face and how it
“Just for him to experience that moment and know that he managed to achieve
what he wanted and for me, that’s all I needed.”
Sison though, says he needs more. Now in his second season with Team
Canada, the defenceman is focused on the upcoming IPC World Para Hockey
Championship and 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. His goal, and that of the
team, he says, is to not only medal at both events, but win them.
“We are putting it all out there for each other and the team because we
know that we have a really good chance to win worlds and the Paralympics
coming up, so we just want to work really hard for each other because we
like to keep each other accountable,” Sison says.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing travel restrictions and making camps
difficult, most team activities went virtual. They had meetings at least
twice a week but needed to train on their own. Despite the challenges,
Sison says this is the best he has ever felt physically, and the team is
closer than ever.
“We’ve honestly become the most well-knit family that I’ve ever been a part
of as a hockey team and it’s kind of crazy because we honestly haven’t seen
each other for four, five, six months,” he says.
When thinking about the next few months for his son, John is anxious to see
what unfolds. But he is also quick to reflect on everything Branden has
already achieved, pointing to the photo as evidence.
“For me, that was the goal that I wanted him to achieve,” John says. “I’m
pretty sure he’s going to be successful.”
Though he isn’t focused on personal success, Sison says in the short term,
a continued place on the national team is his motivation. But when thinking
long term, the young blueliner is more reflective.
“I hope to inspire the next generation of para hockey players, I think
that’s what I aim to do the most,” he says. “Regardless of who I am or the
identity of my background, I think just playing my heart out, putting in
effort and just showing my love for the game is what is going to attract
people to it most.”