BEIJING - In 2014, Declan Farmer scored a goal and tallied an assist in his Paralympic debut. Not a bad way to start your Paralympic career. It’s even more impressive when you consider he was only 16 at the time.
Now, a seasoned veteran (at the ripe age of 24) playing in his third Games, Farmer just became the all-time leader in points by a U.S. Sled Hockey Player at the Paralympics. Farmer collected an assist on Josh Pauls first period goal and added another late in the period when Brody Roybal found the back of the net. He then assisted on the Josh Misiewicz goal to set the record at 25. He added a goal in the third for good measure to make it 26 points in his career.
“I didn’t even know I set the record, to be honest,” said Farmer after the game. In fact, nobody on the U.S. side really knew that he had set it. Credit that to their team-first mentality. That and the fact that perhaps they already thought he had it.
“The thing I’ll say about that is that I’m not shocked that he broke the record,” said Pauls, who has been along for the whole ride. “I mean, he's been to three Paralympics so far, and for him to do that is absolutely amazing. He's the lifeblood of this team. He's somebody that we rely on as a vocal leader, but also as a leader by example.”
Pauls also said that although you will see the points come for Declan, he is much more than a one-way player.
“I think the best part about Declan is whether or not he's scoring or not. He's still an effective player. He's really developed himself into a two-way guy that if he's not scoring goals, he's not getting assists, even though he was doing it all today. And in most games, he is someone that's going to always make sure that he's contributing on and off the ice.”
Farmer remembered his first Paralympic goal. Scored at just 16, he actually was not the youngest person to score a goal for the U.S. at the Paralympics. That honor belonged to his teammate, Brody Roybal, who was 15 when he scored in that same game in Sochi against Italy.
When asked about that first goal, it should come as no surprise that the humble Farmer deflected to talk about his teammate, Malik Jones, who scored his first Paralympic goal in the matchup against Canada.
“I remember that goal and it is special. Malik got his first Paralympic goal today. I mean, definitely a way, way better goal than I scored in my first, first one. Malik is, he's a really good player, but, you know, his patience there— the moment is not too big for him. I think a lot of guys in their first game wouldn't have had the kind of wherewithal to just see that puck and direct it up top. That was really impressive.”
Head coach David Hoff has had a front row seat to just about half of Declan’s already-historic career. He was an assistant coach in 2018 and is now at the helm trying to lead the team to a fourth-straight gold medal. Like Pauls, Hoff knows that Farmer means more to the team and U.S. program than just “making us coaches look good.”
“It's the way he goes about his business, you know, everything we talked about sticking to it, not being too high, not being too low, doing what the team needs, not what you need individually, meaning a puck might need to be put deep in the zone. He does those things. And so why would the rest of the guys not follow his lead? And that's just the biggest thing. We have a guy who's one of the best players in the world that just plays the game the right way.”
Farmer has seen his leadership grow throughout his time on the team. When he first joined the team, it was guys like Steve Cash, Taylor Lipsett and Taylor Cross along with Josh Pauls that helped lead the way. Now, he has the opportunity to help along the younger guys like Jones, who looked up to Farmer, and help continue to push the sport forward.
“Now that I've kind of been a part of this group for a long time, you kind of pick up more of a leadership role you know. I was in Nashville with a lot of these guys the past year and a half with a training group of seven or eight. I kind of took charge of a lot of the training there without any coaches. That kind of gave me more confidence. That's kind of leading being a leader on this team.”
The forward still has many years ahead of him on the team, and it is impressive to watch what he does on the world stage against the world’s best players night in and night out. Though Farmer continually shows the humility that makes him a great teammate in saying that he thinks his record will be broken “many, many times,” there is no telling how high his ceiling is and what that record may look like by the time he hangs up the sled. The next closest player with a realistic shot to eclipse that record is Roybal, and the two may be combining for a countless number of goals over the years.
One thing is for certain, though, as Hoff eloquently put it with a smile: “We’re sure glad he’s on our side.”