Corey Wheelock plays a physical style, but also is one of St. Cloud Cathedral's smartest players according to coach Eric Johnson. Photo by Jeff Wood
It wasn’t the last time Johnson had to reminded of Wheelock’s “handicap.”
“I don’t even know which leg his prosthetic one is,” admitted Johnson. “Half the time, we forget that he has one. The reason he plays is he does all the little things. He’ll block shots and finish checks. He does all the little things well and works very, very hard.”
Wheelock first cracked Johnson’s varsity lineup as a junior. In 20 games, he recorded a lone assist – but it was a dramatic first varsity point. He assisted on Jordan Revier’s game-winner with just 30 second left in overtime in a 5-4 victory over Delano/Rockford.
Wheelock was also part of the Crusaders’ Section 5A playoff roster, earning his spot with his hard work.
“He’s physical,” said Johnson, giving a quick scouting report on Wheelock. “He loves to bang bodies around. He’s really aggressive on the forecheck and is very smart, both academically and on the ice. That’s his biggest asset.”
This year Wheelock opened the season with his first varsity goal, scoring in the Crusaders’ second game of the year -- Nov. 26 against Providence Academy.
“It was a fun way to start off the year,” Wheelock said. “Especially because of the tough start against Breck (an 8-1 loss the night before). I was just glad to help out.”
“The guys were excited for him,” Johnson said. “But it’s become such a normal thing for us. There are either jokes made about (his prosthesis) or you don’t say anything about it. They were excited because of his personality, not his injury.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been a few memories created because of his prosthetic.
When Wheelock was a sophomore, it took his teammates a while to get used to the idea of it. Eventually, they used humor as a coping mechanism. Jordan Palusky, a senior on that 2009-10 team, was the instigator.
Palusky would steal one of Wheelock’s legs – he has different versions for everyday wear and for athletics – and hide it somewhere in the locker room. Sometimes the leg would be sticking out of a heating duct, sometimes poking out from under the benches, but always just in sight.
“Everyone was originally shy about it,” said Wheelock. “But once they saw how openly I talked about it, it wasn’t a huge deal.”
Wheelock also played on the U.S. Amputee Hockey Team as a freshman, earning a spot in the world championships. As part of the team’s tour, they visited the Walter Reed Medical Hospital in Bethesda, MD, visiting veterans who had recently had a limb amputated.
“We showed them what we could all do. It was kind of neat to see how they would react,” said Wheelock, who plans to study either biology or engineering at the University of Minnesota in the fall. He’d love to get into the field of prosthetics from a design standpoint while also playing club hockey and lacrosse. “They saw that they wouldn’t be limited as much as they thought. Life isn’t over (with a prosthesis).
“You can still do everything you used to do.”